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A Second Coming - Varun Chakravarthy’s rise to international cricket

In IPL 2019, Varun Chakravarthy was picked by KXIP for Rs 8.4cr and became the most expensive uncapped player bought by any franchise.

Varun Chakravarthy took two wickets in three games played recently against Sri Lanka in T20I series which India lost by 2-1.
Varun Chakravarthy is among the World T20 probables for India. (Image: ©BCCI/IPL)

Varun Chakravarthy made his international debut at the age of 29 in the first of the three match T20I series against Sri Lanka. The mystery spinner who has bamboozled our TV screens in the Indian Premier League(IPL) for the KKR has a usually unusual story of his journey to the big stage.

The journey has been more beautiful than the destination

Varun started playing cricket as a young wicket-keeper batsman at the age of 13. After multiple rejections in age group cricket, Varun left his hopes of being a cricketer and went on to pursue architecture from SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai. He played next to no cricket over his 5 years there until he started working as a freelance architect when his passion for the game was re-ignited. He later quit his job and joined the CromBest Cricket Club as a seam-bowling all-rounder.

Varun once again was faced with a tough decision when a knee injury not only ruled him out for better part of a year but also dimmed his ambition of becoming a pace bowler. During his time off, he once again went back to his roots in tennis ball cricket where he honed his skills as a spinner.

A mystery spinner rises through the ranks

Over the year, Varun developed many variations in his spin bowling repertoire and exhibited his talent in fourth division cricket playing for the Jubilee Cricket club where he took 31 wickets over 7 matches at an average of 8.26 and an economy of 3.06.

Later that year he got the opportunity to play for Karaikudi Kaalais in the Tamil Nadu Premier League in 2017. In his breakthrough year in 2018, he was acquired by Siechem Madurai Panthers where his performances not only helped overcome the team’s 15-match losing streak but also helped the unit to go on and win the title for the very first time.

He took 9 wickets in the 10 games played during that season for Madurai Panthers but displayed a low economy of 4.7 and a dot ball percentage of 52.8. Varun’s bag of variations along with the ability to bowl the slog and power play overs economically caught the eyes of many. He soon got his maiden call up to the higher echelons of domestic cricket and he represented his state Tamil Nadu in the 50-over Vijay Hazare tournament in 2018. He ended that season as the top wicket-taker in the group stage, taking 22 wickets in 9 matches at an economy of 4.2.

In 2019, Varun Chakravarthy was picked by KXIP for Rs 8.4 cr and then in 2020, by KKR for Rs 4cr
Varun Chakravarthy was picked by KXIP in IPL 2019 for Rs 8.4cr, most expensive uncapped player. (Image: Twitter/IPL)

IPL opportunities and selection

In 2018, Varun was presented with opportunities to bowl in the CSK and KKR nets where he was evaluated. In 2019, his efforts were awarded with a Rs 8.4 crore contract from Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) as the most expensive uncapped player in the IPL.

However, it was not to be a season where he made eyeballs roll as the spinner was side-lined after one match due to a shoulder injury and did not play for the rest of the season. His one game was not the best, going at an economy of 11.6 with one wicket to his name in his 3-over spell against KKR at Kolkata. He was subsequently dropped from the team but was picked by the very same KKR in 2020.

IPL 2020 was played in the UAE where his performance shined through. He picked up 5 wickets in his very first game against the Delhi Capitals finishing at 5/20, the best bowling figures that year and winning the match for the team by a comfortable 59-run margin. Varun finished that season as the top wicket-taker for the KKR at an average of 20.94 and an economy of 6.84 taking 17 wickets from his 13 matches.

Indian team selection

After his exemplary performance in IPL 2020, he was awarded with an Indian team call up for the T20I series against Australia. Unfortunately, an injury ruled him out before he could travel with the team. His selection in the T20 series against England once again went fruitless as a fitness test hampered his chances of team selection.

What does the future hold?

Varun Chakravarthy finally made his international debut on July 25, 2021 in the T20I series against Sri Lanka. He played all three games delivering on his promise of being an economical mystery spinner, taking 2 wickets at an economy of 5.30. India, ahead of the T20 World Cup, still seem uncertain on their spin line-up for the tournament. Varun’s previous performance in the UAE along with how he’ll fair in the latter half of IPL 2021 will be a crucial determinant for his selection in the WC squad.

“Even when I left cricket, cricket didn’t leave me”

The story of Varun Chakravarthy is one which resonates with the cricket-loving nation of India where every child fosters a dream to become a cricketer. It reminds us of what the game is about in its grassroots and its ability to test us even when stripped from the glorified pictures of international cricket.

It reinforces the ideology of the game being loved and celebrated as much in the grandstands of Wankhede as in gully cricket giving rise to an ever so common Varun Chakravarthy.


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