Shubham Dubey (Photo Source: Twitter)
Nagpur, 27 December 2023: 220 runs, 7 innings, a monstrous strike rate of 185+, and a blazing 58 off 20 balls as an ‘Impact Player’ in Vidarbha’s highest-ever run-chase at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2023, Shubham Dubey’s timing to leave a lasting impression couldn’t have been better.
The left-handed middle-order batter had little idea that his life was about to take a drastic turn just one month later, at the IPL 2024 Auction. Delhi Capitals opened the bid for the 29-year-old uncapped player, whose base price was set at INR 20 lakh. The Royals soon joined them, and thus began the war of bids that went well beyond the realm of anyone’s imagination. Let alone that of an excited Shubham, who was watching all the action unfold right in front of his eyes. The Royals eventually had the final say, signing the hard-hitter up for a whopping INR 5.8 crore, knowing well and truly what the Nagpur-based cricketer brought to the table.
We caught up with Shubham for a quick, exclusive tête-à-tête soon after the auction madness and just in time before his phone got bus(ier).
Q. What was your first reaction when Rajasthan Royals bought you at the IPL 2024 auction? Where were you when it happened?
I had mixed feelings ahead of the auction because I had no idea which team would pick me. So that excitement was always there. On the day of the auction, I started with my usual practice. With the Ranji Trophy coming up, all my preparations are focused on that tournament. I had a good outing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy so I was confident about my chances. Honestly, I didn’t expect the bidding to be so high so that was a pleasant surprise.
The way the bids kept shooting up one after the other was astonishing to watch. My parents were sitting right across from me in the room when this happened, so watching them get emotional was a priceless moment for me. I touched their feet immediately after and thanked god as well because, without their blessings, this wouldn’t have been possible. My brother and close friends were present with me at home, and they were all very happy for me.
Q. Tell us a bit about your journey. When did you first start playing cricket?
Just like thousands of other kids in the country, my cricket journey also started in typical fashion. When I was in school, I would play gully cricket in the neighbourhood, and watch the Indian cricket team on television. At that time, I would get very excited to watch the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, etc. So I started playing locally with a few of my friends. I come from a very humble background, my family couldn’t afford to buy a full-fledged cricket kit but my father still managed to buy me one. Then one of my uncle’s friends suggested I should get enrolled in a club called ‘Advocate XI’ that trains talented young kids who can’t afford to pay fees for free.
It was there that I first saw Faiz Fazal, who was Nagpur’s Ranji Trophy captain at the time. His personality, the confidence he carried and the way everyone treated him with so much respect made me feel I wanted to reach that level too. He’s also a left-handed batter so I could relate to him even more. So I joined the club and started practising regularly and eventually got a chance to play matches at the club level. I would like to thank the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), they gave me plenty of opportunities at the camps.
One day, a coach asked me about my fees and I burst into tears because I couldn’t afford to pay it. He then started providing me with gloves, pads, etc. as I continued to play well and score runs. He also got me to play matches at the U-19 and U-23 levels, and then I went on to become the club captain. In my final year of U-23 cricket, coach Sudhir Wankhede gave me a chance to play in the Bapuna Cup and I scored some runs there. That was the moment I thanked him and decided that cricket was indeed what I wanted to pursue going forward. From then on, my hard work resulted in opportunities here and there, and I never looked back.
Q. Who was your inspiration growing up?
As a kid, I enjoyed watching cricket overall on television but I never thought I would become a cricketer. I loved watching Yuvraj Singh and the way he used to hit the big shots. I have also grown up playing a lot of tennis-ball cricket as back then, players would get paid to play in such competitions. I also like MS Dhoni and I know that he also played tennis-ball cricket in his early days before he took over Indian cricket.
Q. How did your family support your dream?
My parents have been incredibly supportive of my decision right from my childhood. They never forced me to do something else despite our struggling financial situation. My father is a modest man who took up odd jobs to support the family, right from operating a paan stall to working as a hotel manager, to even getting into real estate. My mom is very religious, even she didn’t stop me from chasing my dream. I would assure both of them that something good will come out of this and if I play well, it can also open up doors to employment as I had seen my friends getting jobs because of playing cricket.
Q. When was the first time you interacted with Rajasthan Royals? Any particular moment you remember?
A chance visit to the Royals’ High-Performance Centre in Talegaon (Nagpur) with a friend just after the pandemic led me to meet Romi sir (Romi Bhinder, Team Manager) and Zubin sir (Zubin Bharucha, Director of High Performance). When I went there, I saw Yashasvi Jaiswal practicing in the nets and I was in awe of the facilities and the huge ground there. Cut to this year, I was there once again for the trials and that’s when Zubin sir took notice of my batting. He said to me, “You have the potential and the calibre, now we need to give it the finishing touches. It’s not just about playing in the IPL, but also beyond that and your ability to do that is clearly visible.”
Q. Which teammate/coach are you looking forward to meeting in the IPL 2024 season?
Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) sir for sure. I have followed his journey till his retirement and he is such a respected figure in the cricketing fraternity. He was also a lefty like me so just being around him will surely be a learning experience for me. I can’t wait to get going!
Q. What was the first thing that came to your mind after the auction? What is it that you want to do first?
There are a lot of people who have helped me reach this stage of my life. And I’ve found my biggest supporters in my family. My twin brother took care of the house financially without letting the pressure affect me, my parents were right behind me through thick and thin. Even on my worst days, when I was injured and out of action for a while, they encouraged me and kept me in a positive state of mind. I want to give them the comfort and happiness they deserve, so I wish to first buy a house for the family.
I’ve been fortunate to have friends who would always lend a helping hand, whether it was giving me a ride to the grounds when I had no other means of transport, or bowling to me day in, day out at the nets, or just introducing me to coaches, academies, from where I could carve my path. I would like to give back to them in whichever way possible to express my gratitude towards them.
Q. What is your favourite batting position?
I just want to win the match for my team, be it at any position. The fact that I am flexible in the batting order works well in my favour.
Q. What can fans expect from you in the upcoming IPL season?
The most important thing for me is to repay the franchise that has shown so much faith in me. And the only way to do it is through my performances so I’ll try my best to do that.