‘Belief’ the secret behind Dube’s successful transformation

IPL 2023

‘Belief’ the secret behind Dube’s successful transformation

Aayush Puthran

Can confidence and self-belief overcome the shortcomings of skill and technique?

Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings head coach, certainly thinks so. At least in the case of Shivam Dube, he’s quite sure.

Dube may have enjoyed a terrific run in the league stage of IPL 2023, being CSK’s only consistently successful batter in the middle order, used effectively as a spin basher. But it wasn’t really his success against spin that brought rewards for the southpaw who had so far struggled to find a footing in the IPL. He was always a big-hitter of spin. The stable base, the long reach and the wide swinging arc.

The change, and possibly a more critical aspect of his improved game this season, has been his performance against pace – the weaker aspect of his batting. In fact, some of the teams brought their pacers back into the attack in the middle overs soon after Dube came on to bat, trying to nullify the threat quickly – and worked quite effectively against his limitations of high-speed chest-high short balls.

But what was his bugbear over many years has suddenly transformed this season. In a hectic, short-span travel schedule, there was limited time to overcome a technical challenge in the nets. But the confidence gained from his own performance against Royal Challengers Bangalore (27-ball 52), where he mostly stood tall against the pace attack, proved to be the gamechanger, according to Fleming.

“Just belief,” made the difference in Dube’s improved game against pace, believes Fleming. “Often when players have an area of weakness, they are concentrating too much on it. So we just tend to concentrate on the good things he does. When he continued to play, he got better and better. He has been a player who has been in and out. At the start of the tournament, we were trying to find some evidence that he was going to be the guy for us. And that innings in Bangalore did that. He has responded to being a constant in the side.

“We find that more confidence and belief you put in a player, it hides a few weaknesses. Yes, he has worked on it from a technical point of view. But mentally, he is ready to take on anything and that’s a very strong belief.

Beyond the self-belief, there have been other factors as well that’ve worked in Dube’s favour. Not all teams employed the short-ball tactic effectively against him. Khaleel Ahmed for example, on Saturday, dished out two full deliveries and was hammered for sixes. Jason Holder used the short-ball ploy with a fair amount of success only to then change his plan to bowl fuller and get hit. Mitchell Marsh chose to go for slow cutters, for short deliveries with his pace was unlikely to trouble the big-hitting batter.

In many games, captains didn’t opt to go on the offensive against Dube – of which, many games were played in Chennai where teams were stacked heavily in the spin department and chose to use high pace in the death overs.

It’s not a tactic that every team has necessarily used against him before allowing him to face ample deliveries from spinners. The blueprint for Dube’s containment lay in CSK’s opening game itself, where Hardik Pandya, Alzarri Joseph and Mohammed Shami had kept the left-hander in check with their short-ball ploy. Jofra Archer and Kagiso Rabada also used the tactic later in the tournament, but he was able to see off those deliveries and cash in on his strengths. In fact, in the games before the one against RCB he managed to score only 41 runs off 36 balls against the pacers.

Shivam Dube vs pace in IPL 2023 (match-by-match)

Opposition Runs Balls Strike Rate
GT 19 17 111.76
LSG 12 7 171.42
MI 7 9 77.77
RR 3 3 100
RCB 43 22 195.45
KKR 29 12 241.66
RR 26 19 136.84
PBKS 16 12 133.33
MI 11 9 122.22
DC 2 4 50
KKR 12 11 109.09
DC 15 7 214.28
Several spinners across the country have been at the receiving end of Dube’s onslaught in domestic cricket over the years. His weaknesses against high-pace has rarely been put to test at the lower levels where there are very few bowlers who can clock above 140 kmphs and get the ball to rise and challenge the 6 feet 4 inch frame of Dube. The monstrosity of the long distances the ball travelled possibly added to the aura of his big-hitting, but it was not to take away from the fact that spinners were often struggling to find the right lengths against Dube.

Even as he failed to replicate that success in the IPL and even for the national team as frequently as they would’ve liked, he did make a compelling case every time his name popped up during the IPL auctions. Afterall, as a big-hitting, seam-bowling Indian all-rounder, he offered one of the rarest packages to franchises.

However, his prime utility was often lost in trying to fit him in as a finisher who can bowl medium pace. Against extreme pace in the death overs, his limitations cropped up, much like it did with his 130kmphs medium pacers – both of which find a hiding in lower levels of cricket. In CSK, his primary – and most destructive – global-standard asset has been allowed to flourish. But is it yet to be countered more potently by most teams?

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