Varun Chakravarthy finds his "sense of acceptance" at last

Varun Chakravarthy seems to have come of age (Pic Credits: PenBugs)
Varun Chakravarthy seems to have come of age (Pic Credits: PenBugs)

Nearly a year ago, Varun Chakravarthy seemed on top of the world. The spinner had been scalping wickets for fun for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and was deservedly rewarded with a call-up to the Indian squad for the tour Down Under.

At that point, it seemed that Chakravarthy could do nothing wrong and that his cricketing journey, which hasn’t always been conventional, was set to be adorned by the fairytale ending billions crave.

Post the 2020 edition of the IPL, though, things started falling apart for Chakravarthy. Just before India departed for Australian shores, a shoulder injury – an injury that he had carried through the IPL and still performed - was deemed serious enough to omit him from the side.

Also Check: IPL Live Score | IPL Points Table | IPL Schedule

A few months later, the Men In Blue included the KKR spinner for the T20I series against England. This time, Chakravarthy failed to meet the lofty fitness standards of the current Indian cricket team regime, meaning that his international opportunities evaporated like smoke.

More damningly, that particular sequence of events and the swiftness of it, which had come after Chakravarthy’s meteoric rise, seemed to suggest that he could become the protagonist of another “what could’ve been” tale.

To put things into perspective, the spinner was still specializing as an architect until the 2017-18 season. Not only was he away from any sort of competitive cricket, he felt that architecture was his true calling, despite having played age-group cricket till the age of 17.

In blunter terms, there was skepticism around everything Chakravarthy did because, well, he was a mystery spinner – a breed that hasn’t always been ubiquitous in India. And, he had come through the ranks in the least imaginable scenario – shifting from an entirely different profession.

The shunting from architecture to cricket meant that he was only breaking onto the scene aged 30 – something that is hardly considered ideal in a country where youngsters are picked up in their teens.

Or, as Chakravarthy would put it, there wasn’t quite a “sense of acceptance” with respect to the things he accomplished on the cricket field and the things that he could accomplish in the near future.

Chakravarthy (R) was picked by India for the T20 World Cup (Pic Credits: Mid-Day)
Chakravarthy (R) was picked by India for the T20 World Cup (Pic Credits: Mid-Day)

That, though, was extinguished a fortnight ago when India, to the surprise of many, selected the spinner in their squad for the T20 World Cup. And on 20th September 2021 when KKR clashed with the Royal Challengers Bangalore at Abu Dhabi, it became pristinely clear why India did so.

Not only did Chakravarthy draw effusive praise from Virat Kohli , he produced a performance that left the likes of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Kohli spellbound. It was that good.

Prima facie, it might seem that the hype about Chakravarthy is perhaps overstated. His overall record in the IPL, which reads - 28 wickets at an average of 22.25 and an economy rate of 7.16 isn’t as startling as some of the others who’ve previously been fast-tracked into the Indian side.

Yet, there is something special about Chakravarthy – a mystery still to be decoded, a career waiting to be seized and of course, an extraordinary talent waiting to win matches for India.

Varun Chakravarthy has many strings to his bow

As things stand, the mystery spinner has at least seven variations in his arsenal. Importantly, though, he seems to have understood when to use these variations.

Maxwell's dismissal in Abu Dhabi was a perfect example. Chakravarthy kept pushing the batter back using a combination of sliders and carrom balls before flighting a googly just enough to entice Maxwell to look for the slog.

Apart from that, he also accounted for Wanindu Hasaranga, who much like Maxwell, didn’t pick the googly. He played down the wrong line and was trapped plumb in front. That Hasaranga has also made a livelihood deceiving batters with his variations and is an adept batter himself only highlighted how incredibly gifted Chakravarthy is at flummoxing batters.

Additionally, the spinner has a knack of keeping things tight and forcing the batters to make mistakes. While an economy rate of 7.16 might not stand out, especially when compared to what Rashid Khan and Sunil Narine have produced over the years, it certainly illustrates that Chakravarthy can hold his own.

The biggest positive in his bowling, though, is that he can, at any time in the game, produce a wicket-taking delivery – one that has the beating of even the best in the business.

There are a few teams at the #ICCT20WorldCup asking for footage of this match to see what this Chakravarthy is all about.....

When the Chennai Super Kings tackled KKR at Abu Dhabi in 2020, it was Chakravarthy who bamboozled MS Dhoni and triggered an almighty collapse – one that culminated in a victory for KKR.

At Chennai in April 2021, the tweaker outfoxed Kohli with a delivery that held in the air just a shade but enough to tempt the Indian skipper to look for an inside-out drive that wasn’t available. Eventually, he sliced the ball towards cover point, where Rahul Tripathi pounced.

Thus, there is enough to hint that Chakravarthy has finally come of age and that this is his moment after years of struggle (both cricketing and non-cricketing). And, more tellingly, that he has, despite the collective moans and groans at his astonishing ascent and subsequent failed fitness tests, managed to carve a place for himself in India’s first-choice T20I setup.

Over the years, “X-Factor” has been one of the most overused words in cricket. At times, it has indicated how terrifically talented an individual is. More often, it has been used as an easy getaway to justify selections that don’t adhere to conventional cricketing logic and wisdom.

Chakravarthy, though, seems to fall in the former category simply because he is different. So much so that it even threatened to unravel the unparalleled upward curve he had designed for himself. What he does have is a solid foundation and an excellent cricketing brain to rely on.

Or, as an architect like Chakravarthy would put it, the ideal blueprint to ensure that his legacy survives the ravages of time and leaves an imprint detailed enough to tell people that it is never too late to rekindle your old passion or to completely invest in something that you fully believe in.

You have to love the cool, matter of fact reaction from Varun Chakravarthy when he gets a big wicket. As if to say, I'm a bowler, it's my job, no big deal! Love watching him bowl.

His story, which is filled with twists of fate, monumental crests and troughs, may even have prompted the Indian team to look beyond his cricketing abilities because, well, only a person of immense character could’ve come so far.

From a personal standpoint too, this rise to stardom vindicates his decision. And now that he is part of India’s plans for the T20 World Cup, it reiterates that he was right all along to pursue the sport he loved.

Maybe then, Varun Chakravarthy has found his “sense of acceptance” at last. That a billion people are now hoping for him to conjure even more magic on the grandest stage of them all, encapsulates that feeling perfectly.

On top of the world again, eh?

Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule

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