Six-hitter Dube awaits his moment to unleash


If you include the warm-up game, Shivam Dube spent 60 legal deliveries in the USA to hit his first six on the tour. This is a batter who has been hitting a six every eight balls or so in the IPL over the last year. In his T20 career overall, which includes times when he was not the six-hitter he is now, he has still hit a six every 16 balls. The six-hitting ability has brought him to the World Cup, and he has had to wait so long to put one in the stands. He jokes he has only ever waited for this long in first-class cricket.

Dube is also somebody who loves to hit sixes at practice. He does train other parts of his game, but he absolutely loves range-hitting. Sometimes his training sessions with CSK are just about hitting sixes as soon as he feels ready. It was not possible in New York where India – and other teams – practised in a small facility that can house only the nets. In Florida it just kept raining.

You’d expect Dube to be the happiest person to get out of New York, and the USA, and onto more reliable pitches and better training facilities. He isn’t. When asked how easy or difficult, and how important, it is to delete the memories of New York before going to better batting tracks, Dube said he wasn’t going to do any such thing. “I won’t delete this from my memory because this is my first World Cup. Why should I?”

Relish such conditions is not what six-hitters do. They are in here because of their six-hitting. They know the six-hitting can’t happen on surfaces where the bounce, pace and direction of the ball after the pitching are all unpredictable. So survive them, yes, co-exist with them, but enjoy them?

“What I have done in the past is never doubt myself,” Dube said. “What I see is these conditions don’t demand what I have done at CSK. These conditions demand a different game. So I was batting in a different way.”

That Dube enjoyed the challenge, trying to find a way to win matches for India, tells you he wants to be more than just a six-hitter. Watching him in the nets, the wind-up always suggests he is going to hit a six. And then he acts according to the ball. It’s as though his batting is all about doing something else only when the option of hitting the six is eliminated. And so far he has found himself in conditions where you have to hit your best possible shot for it to clear the field. You can’t afford even a slight mishit. It is to Dube’s credit that he has done his job without hitting these sixes.

Dube’s arrival in the West Indies hasn’t necessarily been the opening of the floodgates either. The pitches in the nets at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados have had both seam and swing – then the further garnish of a passing shower, which spiced them up further. Dube didn’t opt for range-hitting either, instead spending more time bowling than batting.

Some day or the other during this World Cup all this denial will make way for a pitch that calls for 200. It could well be on the main pitch at Kensington Oval, which has already hosted one score of 200. It could be in St Lucia, the highest-scoring ground this tournament. Or the final. It could be against the spinners of Afghanistan or against the varied quicks of Bangladesh.

It is on these high-scoring grounds that India really need Dube. While what he did during the chase against USA must have reassured the team of his quality, India have batters who can anchor a middling chase. With the rest of his team-mates, Dube has had two training sessions at Kensington Oval to probably undo the muscle memory, if any, of the USA.

Now that switch will have to flick quickly because there is hardly any time in T20s. The skill, though, is not just batting that way but identifying when to do so. Suryakumar Yadav says the captain and the management trust the batters in the middle to know which pace to aim for. Dube will have the feedback from two of the most experienced batters in international cricket to fall back on, but, especially when batting first, India will rely a lot on his instinct to inform what they are aiming for.

Whatever the conditions might be in the Super Eight, it is unlikely Dube will have to wait 60 balls for his next six. India might yet need a few from him.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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