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Is Shivam Dube's Rise A Eureka Moment For Pandya-less India Before T20 World Cup?

image-lrg12k0hShivam Dube in action [AP]

It may be down to the fact that the fan has come to expect quite a bit from the modern-day cricketer, this being a cricket meets entertainment age. Or, maybe it is down to the fact that the sport is a greater leveller, where one day, you're this Omega- the almighty and the other, not even in contention. 

But the fact is that you just don't know which way the buck spins in world cricket. You just don't. Can't guess it. Even more so when it comes to Indian national cricket. No one says with much respect to our subject of admiration that India is speaking about at present; just nobody was even talking about Shivam Dube towards the end of 2023 or even on the heels of the fast-approaching 2024, which, as we note, is already over a fortnight past us. 

And here we are

Shivam Dube, by sheer weight of runs, as seen in the last or most recent T20 internationals held against Afghanistan and not to forget, by pure impactfulness of his run-scoring, has made himself a national headline in the firmament of Indian national cricket. 

"Can he make it to the T20 World Cup 2024?", they're asking. 

"Why should he not be picked?", they are already debating with endless zeal. It's a big thing. It really is. 

The talk of the town

image-lrg131zcShivam Dube has been sensational vs AFG [AP]

It is a big thing to be the talk of the town, especially in a country of millions of cricket-crazed Indians, where the common discussion point from dusk to dawn is whether Virat Kohli is the "GOAT" or is Rohit Sharma still the man with the Midas touch? 

Against that common notion that fans are sentimental about, to have, in a sense, come out of nowhere and become a subject of much thought and maybe even BCCI's consideration with respect to the World Cup squad, full credit goes to Shivam Dube.

His unbeaten 63, which came from merely 32 deliveries at Indore and thus made a mess of Afghan bowlers in the city renowned for its cleanliness and hygiene, became a hit. And it deserved to be. 

Not only for it was a dazzling half-century that came in India's winning cause but also down to the fact that a cricketer who was rather surprisingly picked in this series has delivered two consecutive (not to forget, fiery) fifties on the trot.

After his unbeaten 60 came this dazzling 63 not out. The headlines at the end of a period of arduous suffering for Afghanistan's talented and highly skilled bowlers read: Shivam Dube- 2 and Afghanistan- 0. 

How’s Dube placed in terms of an India recall? 

It's almost as if an IPL cricketer, not that he hasn't played white-ball cricket for India- Dube's played 20 T20Is for his country, has come of age again! 

It's almost as if the fearless batsman known for hitting it cleanly, who made his India debut at 26, has sort of re-announced himself all of a sudden. This time, 30 and much deadlier against the vicious white ball. 

Does that trouble Hardik Pandya? Should that trouble Pandya, rather? We don't know. The truth is, there's something that Dube seems to have that maybe the ever-talented and tirelessly passionate about the game Hardik doesn't. 

It's game preparedness and fitness. How so? 

The curious case of Pandya

image-lrg1c1q7Pandya has been out due to a long injury layoff [X.com]

Hardik's been the captain and, in all likelihood, been in command of the white ball unit for quite some time whenever Rohit has been made to rest, given the age factor. 

Hardik, no fan of not experimenting, led a team in the one-day and T20I series in the Caribbean last year and was smashed by the Windies batters. Under his captaincy, despite not being in the full wake of its powers, the team lost to a rather ordinary or maybe, not-so-powerful looking West Indies side. 

Shai Hope, not a Windies T20I regular, made 67 runs from two games, while Pandya made ten more from five games. 

Pandya's strike rate, as seen in his most recent T20I outing, was concerning for India too: it being around 110. 

Hope, for instance, who's been criticised for not being nearly rapid enough in scoring, made his runs at a strikingly good rate of 159. 

The all-rounder conceded more runs with his medium pace than you'd expect from a seasoned T20I campaigner. For instance, in the T20I at Florida, Hardik's one over cost India 14 runs. 

But more than this ordinary performance, it's Hardik Pandya's fitness of late that's generated some concern. 

He's had his share of back issues. At 30 but with 92 T20Is, Pandya, who's approaching 1,500 runs in the format, is no fresher. He's a pro. 

But is his recklessness, which perhaps stems from a lack of fitness that leads to certain absences, a big question India needs to think about? 

Dube v Pandya- a case of two 30-year-old extremely talented lads 

On the other hand, Dube, who's not terrible with his medium pace either, has a decent record besides his briefly explosive outings in an Indian jersey that warrants greater appreciation. They beg some consideration and anything but scrutiny. 

Also, 30, much like the big challenger Hardik Pandya at that number 4 spot for Team India in 2024, Shivam Dube has proven himself to be ubiquitous for the CSK outfit.  

 But his journey wasn't all that easy, which is why he's made himself relevant despite some ups and downs, making him worth your while. 

How's that, though? 

IPL was no walk in the park at the start

image-lrg1ez9iShivam Dube plays for CSK in IPL [X.com]

In the 2019 and 2020 editions, he could only make 169 runs from 15 games. A little less-visited facet of the very capable left-handed batter born in Mumbai is that it wasn't that IPL success instantly came to embrace him. 

For the record, and it ought to be remembered, Shivam Dube's first IPL fifty came well after playing 15 games in the famous T20 league. 

Even after a relatively decent 2021 season where he batted with confidence and ensured the run meter was on, scoring 230 runs off 193 deliveries, it wasn't that he scored his runs at some rocket pace. 

In the 2021 IPL season, Dube's strike rate was 119, which, factually speaking, was his lowest when compared to the three overall seasons he had played in the league- including the two previous editions. But from there on in, having made runs and found some deliveries kissing the meat of the bat, Shivam Dube didn't look back at what was to follow.

Hence, in the seasons, even as his stocks were declining in the Indian national men's cricket team, his IPL performances spoke for themselves and had their own tale to tell. 

Enter Shivam Dube for the World Cup 2024?

For now, it seems the man who admires hitting big and clean sixes, perhaps as much as Hardik or Rishabh Pant do, has captured the attention of those who'll make the big call. 

But again, which way the buck spins is again down to the tide of time and the decision-makers, not in our hands. But obviously.