Even though injuries are a bane for any player, for Varun Chakravarthy it was like a blessing a disguise. For it was an injury to his knee in 2015 that forced Chakravarthy to turn into a spinner from a medium pace bowler. And now, the “mystery spinner” from Tamil Nadu has become the joint expensive buy in the recently concluded IPL auctions after being bagged by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 8.4 crore from his base price of Rs 20 lakh.
An exited Chakravarthy, who made a name for himself in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), said it was always a dream for him to ply his trade in the IPL. “I was a bit nervous to be honest. I was watching the auction with my parents and I saw teams bidding for me. I am happy that I got picked by Kings XI Punjab,” the 27-year-old tweaker said.
Chakravarthy will be the seventh player from Tamil Nadu to represent Kings XI Punjab after Dinesh Karthik, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Murali Karthik, Murali Vijay, T Natarajan, and current skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, from whom he is expecting to learn a lot.
Even though Chakravarthy was born in Thanjavur district, his cricketing sojourn began in Chennai. “I started my career as a medium pacer. I played for Reserve Bank for two years besides several clubs like Magnet CC, Jubliee CC. While playing for CromBest CC I aggravated an injury that kept me away from the game. During that time, I started practicing bowling spin with a tennis ball and soon made the transition to the leather ball,” Varun told the Indian Express.
The uncapped Tamil Nadu player had even taken a break from cricket for seven years to pursue a career in architecture but found his calling in the game and started concentrating on domestic competions to prove his mettle.
TNPL shaped his career
Chakravarthy credits all his success to Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) for shaping his career. In 2017, Varun played for Karaikudi Kaalai but reaped the reward for his transition to spin bowling while plying his trade for Madurai Siechem Panthers in 2018, where he scalped nine wickets in 10 matches at an average of 20.89 and giving away less than five runs per over.
“TNPL was a fabulous experience. From seniors like Arun Karthik, Sudeep Chandran, and Rahil Shaw, I got the opportunity to learn a lot,” he said.
Varun was one of the pivotal force in helping Madurai clinch the TNPL trophy after their disastrous run in the 2017 edition.
Varun’s impressive show in the TNPL saw him earning laurels even from former international stars. Former Australian cricketer Michal Hussey said Varun had attracted a lot of eyeballs with his performance and might be picked up by CSK in IPL 2019.
The spinner’s exploits in TNPL was noticed by the state selectors and he was swiftly drafted into the state team. Varun didn’t disappoint there either and in the Vijay Hazare Trophy he scalped 22 wickets in nine matches, coupled with an average of 16.68 and an impressive economy of 4.23. His tally of wickets was the second best in the tournament.
“The standard in Vijay Hazare is definitely two-three steps ahead of whatever cricket I had played before. I learnt a lot from players like Abhinav Mukund, Vijay Shankar and even from Baba Indrajith and Aparajith, who may be younger than me, but they had experience behind them,” he said. Varun also made his Ranji Trophy debut against Hyderabad this November.
The transition from TNPL to IPL
After the second season of TNPL, Varun was asked to bowl in the nets for Chennai Super Kings and his services was also hired by Kolkata Knight Riders, who is being led by Dinesh Karthik. “Dinesh Karthik called me to bowl in the nets for KKR since CSK’s home games got shifted. I got the opportunity to interact with Sunil Narine. He shared his experience on how to handle pressure, how to bowl during various phases (power-play, death overs) of the game. Along with him, Coach Carl Crowe helped me a lot. That was a memorable experience,” Varun said.
On asked about the latest trend of teams preferring “mystery spinners” over traditional tweakers, Varun said the term was coined by the media. “I never said I’m a mystery spinner, only media started calling me that,” he said.
The spotlight on Varun can be attributed to the repertoire of variations he has up his sleeve despite his stock ball being the leg break. Varun, who claims to have seven different variations, said, “Aiyyo, it’s difficult to recall those variations. Apart from the regular things like off-spin and leg-spin, I bowl a good amount of topspin and I employ certain subtle variation, that’s it.”
Varun also spilled some beans on one habit he cannot change and his favorite film star. “I always carry a cricket ball wherever I go. Even when I go to functions, I still carry it.” And his favorite film star? “I am a huge Vijay fan. I watch Thalabathy films on the day of its release without fail.”