Who would’ve thought that India would ever have a dearth of quality spinners?
It goes to show that the art of spin bowling has advanced leaps and bounds over the years. On being effective as a bowler in T20 cricket, Andrew Tye famously said that one must be “consistently inconsistent”. In essence, the more tricks you have up your sleeve, the better your chances of staying one step ahead of the batter.
While the current options aren’t terrible by any means, they aren’t world-class either. Yuzvendra Chahal’s quick rise up the ranks has hit the brakes, Ravindra Jadeja – who has improved significantly – is still not a genuine wicket-taking option in the shortest format, Kuldeep Yadav is not half the bowler that he once was, and Washington Sundar is yet to showcase anything apart from his restrictive skills.
The issue lies in the fact that all of these spinners are one-dimensional in ways of their own. That’s where Varun Chakravarthy is different. He doesn’t have too much of experience at the professional level, but what he’s got is a multi-faceted skillset.
It’s this very attribute that holds him in good stead during every stage of the game. In the Indian Premier League, he’s bowled with great success in the powerplay – with a dot ball percentage of almost 40.
At the death, he has delivered a total of ten overs with an economy rate of 8.50. To go with that, he’s picked up 25 wickets across 21 innings. In more ways than one, Varun Chakravarthy is the complete T20 bowler.
He may be unorthodox, but who cares? T20 is a format which rewards just that. Sunil Narine, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga, Mujeeb Ur Rahman are all bowlers who have thrived on unorthodox okay over prolonged periods of time.
As it is, being defensive in T20 cricket has cost India on several occasions. One would think – and hope – that they’ve learnt from their past mistakes.
Looking at the make-up of the current Indian T20 side, the need for someone like Chakravarthy is evident. Not only does he add a new dimension to the bowling attack, but his inclusion would also allow Virat Kohli to deploy Jasprit Bumrah, his strike bowler, more sparingly – possibly one over with the new ball, one in the middle overs as an enforcer, and a couple at the death.
This tactical shift could prove vital for India at the T20 World Cup and beyond.
While I don’t think he’s quite ready for ODI cricket yet, his importance in India’s T20 team cannot be overstated. The remainder of the 2021 IPL – to be played in the UAE – is bound to be the final audition not just for Chakravarthy, but for several other key players who find themselves in and around the selection radar.