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From freelance architect to his maiden India call-up: The story of Varun Chakravarthy

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Roar Guru
27th October, 2020
2

When Dinesh Karthik made his international debut at the age of 19 for India, it inspired many kids in his home state of Tamil Nadu.

A 13-year-old by the name of Varun Chakravarthy was one of those kids who took up cricket after Karthik’s international debut as Chakravarthy was a wicketkeeper-batsman just like his idol.

But soon, those dreams faded away. After not getting selected several times in age-group cricket, Chakravarthy quit cricket at the age of 17 and took up an architecture course at SRM University in Chennai. Following the completion of his five-year course, Chakravarthy became a freelance architect before tennis-ball cricket reignited his passion for the game.

Quitting his job, he joined CromBest Cricket Club. This time, Chakravarthy veered away from wicketkeeping and became a seam-bowling all-rounder.

The dream was short-lived this time as a knee injury forced Chakravarthy to watch his side play from the sidelines. And then came the change that took his career in the right path.

Returning from injury in 2017, Chakravarthy signed with Jubillee Cricket Club in the fourth division of the Chennai League. Transforming into a mystery spinner, he took 31 wickets in seven matches at an average of 8.26 and an economy of 3.06 in the one-day competition.

During the 2018 IPL, Chakravarthy was a net bowler for Chennai Super Kings in Chennai before the franchise’s home matches were shifted to Pune. A few weeks later, he was called up by Kolkata Knight Riders to bowl at the KKR nets, where Chakravarthy had the luxury of learning off Sunil Narine. The 2018 season got even better for Chakravarthy, as his first real breakthrough came.

Cricket generic

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

In the 2018 Tamil Nadu Premier League (state T20 tournament), he took nine wickets at an average of 20.88 and an economy of 4.7 as he was a crucial part of Siechem Madurai Panthers winning the 2018 TNPL. Chakravarthy’s feats in the TNPL led him to receive his maiden List A cap for Tamil Nadu in the 2018 Vijay Hazare Trophy.

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He was outstanding for Tamil Nadu, taking 22 wickets in nine matches (the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament) at an average of 16.68 and an economy of 4.23. Soon after, Chakravarthy made his first-class debut, returning with disappointing figures of 1-105 after 39 overs.

To top off a fantastic 2018 for Chakravarthy, the 2019 IPL auction came at the perfect time for him. With a base price of 20 lakhs, a bidding war started between Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings to bag Chakravarthy. Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders joined later in the bid before KXIP bought Chakravarthy for 840 lakhs (close to $1.6 million).

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To share a dressing room with Ravichandran Ashwin and Mujeeb Zadran only benefited his career, and a chance to showcase his form on the biggest stage in franchise tournaments had come.

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Come Chakravarthy’s debut against KKR at Eden Gardens in 2019, things went wrong for him. After Chris Lynn took a single off Chakravarthy, the spinner had to dismiss Sunil Narine in the power play somehow. Sunil Narine scored a 15-ball 50 and loves slogging spinners in the power play.

Bowling to Narine’s arc didn’t help, and Chakravarthy conceded 25 runs in his maiden over of IPL cricket. To date, this is the most expensive first over in the IPL by a debutant. He bounced back well, finishing with figures of 1-35 after three overs and dismissing Nitish Rana on debut. A shoulder injury ruled him out of playing the rest of the 2019 IPL, making it a tournament to forget for the mystery spinner.

But in cricket, players will always get a second chance. During the 2020 IPL auction, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders bid heavily for Chakravarthy with KKR ultimately buying Varun for 400 lakhs (close to $760,000), over 13 times his base price (30 lakhs). Brought into KKR’s second game this season, Chakravarthy hasn’t looked back.

This IPL, Chakravarthy has taken 13 wickets at an average of 24.31 and an economy of 7.18. Bar one hammering on a road at Sharjah with backyard cricket-like boundaries, Chakravarthy has been an efficient bowler for KKR, picking up wickets in the middle overs and often bowling at the death. With seven variations, Chakravarthy has dismissed the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, David Warner, Jonny Bairstow and KL Rahul this season.

On 26 October 2020, Chakravarthy was rewarded for his hard work and determination, receiving an India T20I call-up for the tour of Australia. From quitting the game over a decade ago and becoming a freelance architect before rejoining cricket again, Chakravarthy has seen it all. He is one of many great stories in cricket to prove to others that if you’re passionate about something, chase it rather than dwelling on what could have been.

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Mystery spinners Sunil Narine and Ajantha Mendis have bamboozled Australia in the past with their variations. If Chakravarthy gets a game against Australia in one of the three T20s, it’ll be interesting to see if he can do the same.