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IPL 2023

Varun Chakaravarthy’s IPL renaissance shows he is exactly the calibre of mystery spinner India thought he was

Varun Chakaravarthy has been superb for KKR in IPL 2023
by Shashwat Kumar 3 minute read

Varun Chakaravarthy was fast-tracked into the India T20I squad in 2021 and played the T20 World Cup as well, only to be discarded just as quickly. Two years later, he seems to have evolved into the bowler India thought he was, writes Shashwat Kumar.

Mystery spin is an enviable commodity in the shortest format because it keeps the batters guessing and disrupts their hitting rhythm. As an art, though, it is tough to master.

Hence, there have not been many exponents of it who have maintained the mystery of their craft for the length of their careers. For those who exploded onto the scene early on, it has usually proven really tough for them to sustain themselves and retain that element long-term.


Prior to this IPL season, it seemed that Chakaravarthy was treading that path. In 2022, he leaked 8.51 runs per over and only picked up 6 wickets in 11 matches. He averaged 55.33 and took a wicket every 39 balls – numbers that are not befitting of someone who was deemed good enough to play for India at the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Chakaravarthy has been brilliant for KKR in IPL 2023

2023, though, has been vastly different for him. He has now picked up 17 wickets in 11 games at an average of 19.24. He is also taking a wicket every 14.71 balls, with an economy rate of 7.85. At the time of writing, Chakaravarthy also has the third-most dot balls in this year’s IPL – only behind Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj.

For further context, his average and strike rate this campaign are the best he has ever managed in an IPL season. His tally of 17 wickets is also his second-best ever. The numbers, thus, certainly hint towards a renaissance.

What has been more impressive, though, is the way that he has bowled tough overs for Kolkata Knight Riders and flourished. So far, he has bowled 58 balls in the death overs and has only given away 84 runs. His economy rate of 8.68 is the third-best this season among bowlers to have bowled a minimum of 50 balls in this phase.

Against Sunrisers Hyderabad he bowled three of the last five overs, which included the final over, and only conceded 12 runs, four of which were leg byes. That game otherwise saw 337 runs being scored across 20 overs, illustrating how Chakaravarthy was a cut above the rest that evening.

Against Punjab Kings, he returned with a three-wicket haul, giving away only 26 runs, even as Jitesh Sharma, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran and Shikhar Dhawan tried to take him down.

He accounted for Jitesh and Livingstone, showing the sort of control that you do not normally associate with as niche a bowling breed as mystery spin. That Livingstone was completely flummoxed only made that dismissal more dramatic.

In many ways, that is what set Chakaravarthy apart before his India call-up, and is now surfacing again. He seems to be a step ahead of the batters and seems to have a ball on a string, capable of pitching it wherever he wants and bowling whatever variation he requires.

Because these deliveries turn either way at a pace normally in excess of 90 kph, it becomes very tough for the batters to adjust. This, though, has not come about all of a sudden.

After the SRH fixture, Chakaravarthy admitted that in 2022, there were occasions when he was not bowling as quick as he would have liked, possibly because he was not imparting as many revolutions on the ball as was ideal. Prior to the start of this season, he worked on that extensively and got back to putting more revolutions on the ball, which, in turn, have increased his speed and given his bowling the bite it lacked in 2022.

Batters no longer have the time to adjust and that, coupled with the mystique he always seemed to have, has made him a better bowler than when he first burst onto the scene. In short, he has retained the good from the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, has used the setbacks of late 2021 and 2022, and has evolved into a more complete bowler.

He has more experience now and also seems to have overcome the entire sequence of being fast-tracked into the India squad, being thrown into the deep end and then being discarded, allowing him to be calmer and have more belief in his abilities.

For mystery bowlers like him, deception will be his USP. But now, Chakaravarthy seems quietly confident that even if batters know what is coming at them, they are unsure of how exactly they want to tackle it and nullify his threat.

That aura of being tough to get away, irrespective of the conditions and the match situation is what you want in T20 cricket, and that is what Chakaravarthy has been doing consistently for KKR this campaign.

This is exactly the bowler India thought they were getting at the 2021 T20 World Cup. It did not quite work out that way then, but there is no reason why it cannot work out now.

To bet on the IPL with our Match Centre partners bet365, head here.

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