Varun Chakravarthy, the Kolkata Knight Riders leg-break bowler, made headlines after bagging the first five-wicket haul in IPL 2020. Here’s all you need to know about the spinner, and his inspiring journey so far.
When Varun Chakravarthy picked up the wicket of Axar Patel on Saturday, his fifth of the game, it marked the completition of a full circle for the 29-year-old, who had endured a torrid maiden IPL season last year.
It was only the second time an uncapped bowler had taken a five-wicket haul in the IPL, and possibly, it opened the doors for a regular spot in the playing XI for Chakravarthy at Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Below, we look at his journey so far.
Varun Chakravarthy – The beginning
Hopeful cricketers start really young these days, but Chakravarthy was a relatively late bloomer. He is said to have been a wicketkeeper till he was 17, when he realised things weren’t going his way and shelved the plans of becoming a professional cricket player. Instead, he enrolled in a five-year course on architecture in Chennai.
“Around 2015, when I was not making a lot of money,” Chakravarthy said after the match against Delhi Capitals. “I was freelancing and wasn’t able to meet my needs, I thought I would do something different, that’s when I turned to cricket. I still do it, I like that as well (being an architect)”.
After completing his course, he was drawn to tennis-ball cricket, and gradually veered away from wicketkeeping, and became a bowling all-rounder. A knee injury then forced him to become a spinner.
Uncapped players with an IPL five-wicket haul:
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) October 24, 2020
Domestic T20 hero
Chakravarthy’s claim to fame came through the Tamil Nadu Premier League, a domestic T20 competition in India. “I pretty much started my spin bowling in 2018, that’s when I got my breakthrough in TNPL,” Chakravarthy said.
His ‘mystery’ spin regularly befuddled batsmen in the tournament, and his economy rate was impressive throughout. In 10 games for Siechem Madurai Panthers, Chakravarthy took nine wickets at a measly economy rate of 4.7.
Among those he impressed were Dinesh Karthik, who went on to become his captain at KKR. After spending a few days at trials with Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Chakravarthy was called by Karthik to bowl in the KKR nets.
He went on to break into the Tamil Nadu first-class and white-ball teams. In the 2018 Vijay Hazare Trophy, India’s domestic List A competition, Varun was the second-highest wicket-taker, plucking 22 wickets in 11 games at 16.68, with an economy rate of 4.23.
IPL jackpot and setback
As is now commonplace in the IPL, Chakravarthy, little known outside Tamil Nadu circles, became a bumper hit in the 2019 auction. KXIP were desperate to bag the mystery spinner, and splurged as much as INR 8.4 crore, the joint-highest bid that year. It was 42 times his base price of INR 20 lakh.
However, things didn’t materialise as he would have expected. Chakravarthy managed just one game that season, going for a wicket-less spell of 35 runs, before he suffered a shoulder injury and was set aside for the season.
With Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Chris Green already part of the line-up at KKR, it looked unlikely that Chakravarthy would get a long run in the IPL in 2020. After his uninspiring time at KXIP, there were a few reservations, but Chakravarthy proved the doubters wrong.
Under Karthik, Chakravarthy got a fair run in the first half of the season, before exploding in the game against DC. He was on a hat-trick at one point, as he took five wickets and bagged the best figures by a bowler so far this year.
Soon after his Player of the Match performance, Twitter was flooded with praise for Chakravarthy. In a tweet, Harbhajan Singh called him ‘India material’, while other former cricketers such as Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Kris Srikkanth lauded him for his game-changing figures.
It remains to be seen if Chakravarthy can build on his success, and go beyond domestic cricket in the coming future. But he’s certainly made his opportunities count so far.