December 19 2018
He started the day as a relative unknown – an uncapped player who entered the IPL auction in Jaipur at the lowest base price slab of Rs 20 lakhs – but he ended the day as Kings XI Punjab’s new mystery spinner bought for a whopping Rs 8.4 crores, the joint highest price tag at the auction. So who exactly is Varun Chakravarthy?
Long story short, he is a wicketkeeper-batsman turned architect turned pacer turned spinner who has seven different deliveries – the off break, the leg break, the googly, the carom ball, the flipper, the top spinner, and the slider – up his sleeve.
He started playing cricket at the age of 13 and wanted to become a batsman. He could also keep wickets. But he faced rejections at many age groups and finally gave up cricket to become an architect. After completing the five-year course from Chennai, he played part-time tennis ball cricket which reignited his passion for the game. So he quit his job and joined the CromBest Cricket Club as a pacer.
But after just two matches with the club, a leg injury resulted in a lengthy layoff. When he returned, he tried his hand at spin. As it turned out, that suited him the most and he signed with Jubilee Cricket Club in the fourth division of the Chennai Cricket League. He picked up 31 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 8.26. He also starred with the bat, scoring an unbeaten to take his side to a narrow 1 wicket win over Prithvi Cricket Club.
Next up was the Tamil Nadu Premier League 2018 which is where he rose to fame by taking Siechem Madurai Panthers to their maiden title. Before his arrival, the Panthers were in absolute shambles, not having won a single match in two seasons. Having lost the first match of the 2018 season, their winning streak extended to 15 matches. Chakravarthy, however, had excelled in that match, finishing with figures of 0/23 in 4 overs when all the other bowlers had conceded in excess of 11 runs an over.
He picked up 3/16 in his next match, helping his side to their first ever victory, beating Chepauk Super Gillies by 26 runs. He continued starring for the Panthers, picking up 9 wickets in the tournament and finishing with an economy rate of 4.7 which was the best among all the bowlers at the tournament who bowled at least 15 overs. In total, he bowled 240 deliveries at the tournament of which 125 were dot balls.
Chennai Super Kings’ batting coach Michael Hussey was a commentator at the TNPL and he had picked out Chakravarthy as the find of the tournament. He then starred for Vijay Cricket Club, helping them clinch the VAP trophy before picking up 22 wickets for Tamil Nadu at the Vijay Hazare Trophy and finishing the group stages as the highest wicket-taker. A call-up to the Ranji Trophy team followed.
Ahead of the IPL auctions, he had trials with Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Mumbai Indians. All the teams were aware of his talent which is what sparked the bidding war in Jaipur. Kings XI Punjab were the eventual winners of his signature albeit for a massive price tag.
He will don Punjab’s colours at next year’s IPL and all eyes will be on him when he turns up to bowl. Will he live up to his enormous price tag or will he buckle under all the expectations and pressure? Only time will tell!