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The Varun Chakravarthy we remember vs the mystery spinner we don't

Varun Chakravarthy in TNPL 2018
Varun Chakravarthy in TNPL 2018
ANALYST
Modified 15 Sep 2020, 17:29 IST
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Since the advent of Ajantha Mendis and Sunil Narine in the T20 circuit, mystery spin has become an overrated term. While the former couldn't sustain his career in the limited-overs game, the latter evolved his skills to suit the demands of T20 franchise tournaments. In short, the ambiguity aspect has never resulted in the longevity of any player in any form of cricket.

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Be it Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake, Mohnish Parmar or KC Cariappa, their deceptions got found out sooner or later. Narine is a rare exception to this group. Rating him as just a mystery spinner after so many sustained years of success would be undermining his credentials. He has evolved into a proper all-rounder, one who gives his team a full quota of 4 overs as well as a blistering powerplay in almost every match.

Varun Chakravarthy and the IPL Auction 2019

KXIP bought Chakravarthy for 8.4 crores INR
KXIP bought Chakravarthy for 8.4 crores INR

Varun Chakravarthy entered IPL Auction 2019 with a lot of hullabaloo about his mystery spin. He had come off an excellent Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2018 campaign, where he picked 9 wickets in 10 matches at a measly economy rate of 4.70. He had managed to replicate similar success in the subsequent Vijay Hazare Trophy as well, where he picked 22 wickets at an economy of 4.23. Naturally, everyone expected him to rake in the big moolah during the auction.

As expected, CSK and DC went into a rampant bidding war against each other for Chakravarthy in the auction before KXIP joined the party. Though Punjab faced stiff competition from KKR, they finally managed to bag Varun for a mammoth price tag of 8.4 crores.

Varun Chakravarthy's nightmarish debut

Varun Chakravarthy KXIP vs KKR
Varun Chakravarthy KXIP vs KKR

However, a huge disappointment awaited the spinner on his IPL debut. Owing to a tricky shoulder injury, Chakravarthy could not play the initial few matches of the season. His return was not so pleasant either.

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Chakravarthy was left to bowl in the powerplay against a rampaging Sunil Narine at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The venue has rarely aided spinners since its overhaul in 2015. The KXIP team management could have handled his introduction to IPL cricket a lot better.

KXIP skipper Ravichandran Ashwin could have taken a cue from former teammate Gautam Gambhir in his handling of spinners. Gambhir did not allow Narine to bowl the tough powerplay or slog overs after he returned with a remodeled action in 2015. He would gradually ease the champion spinner into match practice by bowling him in the middle overs to prevent him from losing his confidence.

As expected, Chakravarthy was taken to the cleaners by Narine in his first over. He bowled all over the pitch with no consistency in line and length. The media had already found their scapegoat and wasted no time in making a headline about an 8.4 crore buy getting smashed for 25 runs in his very first over, even before the KKR innings ended.

Chakravarthy finished with match figures of 1 for 35 and was berated straightaway for not delivering on his potential despite his huge price tag.

The little known story about Varun Chakravarthy

Nitish Rana getting dismissed off Varun Chakravarthy
Nitish Rana getting dismissed off Varun Chakravarthy

Whenever people look back at Chakravarthy's IPL career, they tend to remember his first over that went for 25 runs and his match figures which reflected an economy of above 10 per over. They forget that he bowled two more overs in the same match. In fact, his bowling significantly improved in those two overs.

In his second over, Chakravarthy was accurate in line and length for four of his six deliveries. He erred only twice, and was duly punished by an in-form Uthappa for that with two boundaries. However, despite the poor ending, the mystery spinner allowed just nine runs in the entire over.

The highlight of his performance came in his third over, which was also the 15th of the match. A rampaging Nitish Rana was going berserk at that stage. Chakravarthy not only made it difficult for him to score but also picked up his prized scalp. Both Uthappa and Rana also found it difficult to read him off his hand. This resulted in a brilliant 15th over, one which saw him grab the big wicket and concede just a single run.

The accuracy of Chakravarthy's bowling at the latter stages can be reinforced by another bit of statistic. KKR plundered the KXIP bowling attack for 72 runs in the last six overs of their innings. In the slog, Chakravarthy's over was the most economic one. That in itself is a huge achievement as bowlers of the calibre of Mohammed Shami, Hardus Viljoen, and Andrew Tye got smashed all around the ground at the death.

Going forward

Varun Chakravarthy is going to represent KKR on the slow pitches of UAE in IPL 2020. Historically, KKR has given opportunities to the likes of Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Prasidh Krishna, and many others to perform despite their initial failures.

The mentorship from KKR management and the spin-friendly pitches of UAE might be the perfect combination for Chakravarthy to truly announce himself on the IPL platform. This might just be the breakthrough season for the spinner.

Will Narine and Chakravarthy cast a web of spin to tie the opposition up in the middle overs? It's a matter of a couple of weeks before we find that out.

Published 14 Sep 2020, 13:27 IST
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