“You suddenly changed the technique that helped you succeed all these years. Why are you lifting the bat so high?”
Shivam Dube has played 13 T20 Internationals and an ODI for India, the last of which was against New Zealand in February 2020. When he returned from that tour, his father was incredibly upset with him.
Rajesh Dube has been his son Shivam’s full-time coach since the very beginning. A wrestler in his time, Rajesh sacrificed a great deal in life to ensure his son got whatever he needed, and more, to make it to the top as a cricketer. From selling off his business, to attending every match and practice session, to building a pitch in the backyard and giving hundreds of throwdowns a day, to being termed a madman by his family, Rajesh went through it all without ever being deterred. He simply had to see his son play cricket for India.
After toiling away for years, Shivam did finally make it to the top (read all about his journey here). But after being a regular in India’s white-ball setup for a few months, he was dropped from the team and hasn’t been picked since. His last series in New Zealand in early 2020 left Rajesh convinced that there’s only one thing left to do: work harder than ever before.
“There was an issue with his back-lift. It was too high. So he focussed on that and I think he’s made good progress,” Rajesh Dube told Scroll.in.
“He would do three-hour training sessions twice a day. Bat for hours on end, hit thousands of balls a day. He worked really hard on his batting. There were things he needed to work on and he gave it his all. He has natural power and ability but this time, he focussed hard on reducing mistakes and building concentration.”
Shivam was picked for Rs 5 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore before IPL 2019, but he couldn’t create a big impact in the two seasons that he played for the franchise. For IPL 2021, Rajasthan Royals bid Rs 4.4 crore for him but he struggled once again to cement his place in the side. Even for Mumbai in domestic cricket, the consistency that had elevated him to the Indian team was missing.
But he kept at it. Both father and son kept at it. Convinced their time would come again. And it did, when Chennai Super Kings bid Rs 4 crore for Shivam at the mega auction ahead of IPL 2022. There was a sense of relief in the Dube household, but it was clear to them that this opportunity had to be seized.
“Shivam was desperate to do something big. Every athlete goes through ups and downs, it’s all about how you respond. And he was determined to bounce back,” said Rajesh Dube.
It’s still early days in IPL 2022 but it’s clear that Shivam has indeed taken his game to the next level. The left-hander has hit two half-centuries in five matches and is the third-highest run-scorer in the tournament at the moment. He got a 30-ball 49 against Lucknow Super Giants, a 30-ball 57 against Punjab Kings, and finally a stunning 46-ball 95* to help CSK beat Royal Challengers Bangalore for their first win of the season.
Shivam has hit 13 sixes and 16 fours so far in the tournament and gotten the better of big international names like Kagiso Rabada, Josh Hazlewood and Wanindu Hasaranga. There is a marked improvement in his shot selection, the back-lift, as his father insisted, isn’t as exaggerated, the body remains still, and the clean swing of the bat sends the ball a long way.
Rajesh believes the guidance by skipper Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the CSK management is also playing an important role in Shivam’s progress.
“Playing with Dhoni has been a big help for him. He gets a lot of motivation. It makes a big difference when a senior player treats you as an equal and he is getting that sort of backing at Chennai Super Kings,” said Rajesh.
“He told me: ‘Dhoni and Jadeja are motivating me a lot and they have great trust in me’. You can bring out your best when you know you’ll get to play consistently. And Shivam has that sense of stability at the moment.”
There’s still a long way to go this season but Shivam is off to a promising start. He was on the sidelines in the last two years but with another T20 World Cup coming up, he could bring his name back in the reckoning if he sustains this form.
“Our approach has always been the same. Shivam didn’t make it to the Mumbai Under-15, U17 and U19 teams but it didn’t matter. All he did was work hard, and that’s exactly what he does till today. You can’t let setbacks deter you,” said Rajesh.
Shivam’s knock against RCB is among the best by any batter so far this season. He turned the game on its head with his power hitting and it came as no surprise he was declared the player of the match, an award he dedicated to his father.
“It felt nice when he did that,” said Rajesh. “I dedicated my entire life to him.”