Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers helped RCB hold their heads up after six painful losses: Shivam Dube
Before the 2019 IPL began, the Royal Challengers Bangalore seemed to have had most of their bases covered, having built a strong team in the auctions around their two massive pillars.
14 games later, a last-place finish symbolised the very fickle nature of T20 cricket, one that churns out results that are arbitrary enough to defy expert predictions and pre-tournament calculations.
Ahead of the season, hard-hitting all-rounder Shivam Dube seemed a perfect fit for RCB's brittle middle-order. More so after he had built an impressive T20 resume over the previous year, right in the lead up to the 2019 auctions.
Just months before, Dube's stunning assault in the dying stages of the T20 Mumbai League final had made people sit up and take notice. With 26 required from the last over, a charged up Dube hit 22 off the first five balls but failed to connect on the last one, resulting in a heartbreaking three-run loss for the Shivaji Park Lions.
"It was very difficult for me (to get over the loss), but I gave my 100%. In the final, we tried our best to finish the match, but it was not to be. This year, we'll try (and win) it definitely".
Back with the Lions for another season, Dube spoke to Sportskeeda about his maiden IPL stint, the 'Kohli-ABD' influence, his big-hitting abilities and more.
In more ways than one, Dube resembles a young Yuvraj Singh. The batting stance is strikingly similar, so is the clean flourish, and the tremendous speed off the willow.
And of course, the ability to repeatedly clear boundaries at will.
Add to that his ability to bowl nagging medium-pacers, and you have a well-assembled package suited for the shortest format.
"It is indeed inspiring when people compare me to Yuvraj Singh. He is one of the legends of the game and if someone mentions that I hit sixes like him, it does feel pretty nice".
"My idol is Jacques Kallis, the best all-rounder in world cricket. Brian Lara, who, for me, is the best left-handed batsman the world has seen has been an idol too".
It was entirely surprising when RCB shelled out INR 5 crores on the youngster. He walked into the RCB camp soon after and seemed to fit the bill for their vacant middle-order space.
However, he ended up in the middle of a raging tornado.
Match by match, the Bangalore-based franchise disintegrated in what turned out to be a sorry campaign, and youngsters like Dube and Shimron Hetmyer were caught in barbed wire, stuck between two worlds.
"Virat bhai was a very inspirational figure for us. Before losing those six games, Kohli kept saying, 'Don't worry guys. We are going to win one game and then we'll be going for the title too'. He has a great attitude and understanding of the game and that showed on the field".
"Both de Villiers and Virat bhai kept telling us to keep (hold) our heads up, and to bring out our 100% without worrying about the result at all".
Dube played just 4 matches but gathered a great understanding of the game, even through the struggle. His most cherished memories came while batting with AB de Villiers, who kept extending a supporting hand.
"This being my first season, playing under Virat bhai and with AB de Villiers itself was something very different. I got to learn a lot from those guys and earned invaluable experience. There was a big learning process involved".
"Playing with AB de Villiers was my most cherished memory. He is an inspiring player who always helped me while batting. We batted together twice, and de Villiers supported me quite a bit".
His healthy numbers in the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy show that he isn't a one-trick pony. And Dube believes that toggling between formats needs more mental restructuring than anything else.
"It's just about the mental side of things (not much to do with the technique specifically). Be it a day's game or a Test, I just need some preparation beforehand. I do believe I can play all three formats".
"As I get through a tournament, I manage my game accordingly. The overall batting style remains the same".
In the space of nine months, Dube hit five consecutive sixes twice, once during the Mumbai T20 League and then towards the end of 2018, in the Ranji Trophy. He admits that six-hitting is something he worked hard on during net sessions.
"I used to practise a lot of six-hitting. It (six-hitting) doesn't come naturally without consciously practising. You have to work hard on a skill that is so different from all the others".
About his own all-round skills, Dube stresses the need to work hard on his fitness, so as to accommodate the workload of both batting and bowling. In the early stages of his cricketing journey, Dube battled excess weight and consequent back issues. Most of his focus is now on staying injury free.
With future T20 games in sight, Dube is working on ironing out chinks in his batting. Hardened by heartbreaks and banking on his abilities, Dube will now be aiming to make it big once again for the Shivaji Park Lions, a side that he says 'feels like his home team'.