When Kolkata Knight Riders retained Varun Chakravarthy ahead of Shubman Gill before the 2022 IPL mega auction, many, considering their long-term goals, criticized the decision. The move came under scrutiny again after the mystery spinner conceded 89 in a combined seven overs in the last two outings.
Varun Chakravarthy was at the peak of his powers in the last two editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), scalping 17 wickets in IPL 2020 and 18 wickets in IPL 2021. He maintained an economy rate of under seven runs an over in both seasons and ended up as the leading wicket-taker for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Given the fact that there are low and dry pitches at most of the venues in India that benefit the spinners enormously, the KKR opted to retain Chakravarthy at INR 8 crore ahead of the 2022 mega-auction. With Sunil Narine in company, Chakravarthy’s primary job was supposed to stem the flow of runs as they used to do together in the past.
Sunil is like a big brother to me. If I go through a lean patch he will come to me and talk to me. He has also shared to me personal things of which he is vulnerable. It is great of such a legend to talk to me about such things, to let me know he is vulnerable and he also goes though lean patches and tough times. So, talking to him gives you confidence and reinforces self belief."
Varun Chakravarthy to PTI
Chakravarthy, formerly an architect by profession, was instrumental in helping his franchise register an easy six-wicket win against defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in IPL 2022’s curtain-raiser. He outfoxed Robin Uthappa there and conceded just 23 off his four overs. However, it was against a considerably weak CSK batting lineup, where even Moeen Ali was not there.
The KKR could not do much against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), where the latter only had a facile target of 129. Chakravarthy went for over eight runs an over for his solitary wicket there, but the RCB struggled to see off the target until it was done in the final over.
The Purple and Gold Brigade’s next challenge was against Punjab Kings, a fearsome side who chased down 206 against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in their tournament opener with an over to spare. But Chakravarthy did not hold back against the wide range of power-hitters. In fact, he staged a better show than in his outing against CSK with exceptional control and sheer cunning as the opposition only managed 14 off his four overs there.
The KKR has always been boasting of having a spin-heavy bowling attack, but Narine and Chakravarthy have combined to form a revolutionary duo for the franchise with their ability to turn the ball both ways.
The next assignment for KKR was against the five-time champions Mumbai Indians (MI), a side that has an exceptional record of winning 22-7 in terms of head-to-head records by then. Chakravarthy did not play the central role this time around, allowing 32 runs off his four overs for Dewald Brevis’ wicket. However, it was not too bad either although the steep decline only came after the MI match.
He was reasonably bowling tightly in the first four games when the batters struggled to pick him more often than not. But in the last two contests, against Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals respectively, he was smashed all around the park. He bowled seven overs across two games, returning expensive combined figures of 1-89.
However, the architect himself was not surprised after the recent onslaught. “It is bound to happen, people will have plans against me. Last year in the Indian leg, I had six to seven wickets in seven matches. Later on, I picked up more wickets, so you cannot predict how many wickets you are going to get,” Chakravarthy told PTI.
“I am working on a new variation which I am looking forward to bowl more. If it starts clicking well it will definitely add a new dimension to my game. I need to be a little more confident (bowling the new variation) and start bowling it more.”
The re-emergence of Kuldeep Yadav for Delhi Capitals (DC) in the ongoing edition has triggered the decision of retaining Chakravarthy even more. The left-arm wrist-spinner was not a regular for his former franchise KKR ever since Chakravarthy took the limelight. His statistics for them in the last two editions were not great either, taking just five wickets in 14 matches.
In cricket, you are bound to be hit. The best spinner right now is Rashid (Khan) and even he has gone for runs (in some matches) but he is still the best. It happens in a few matches, you will have a bad day and you just need to bounce back."
Chakravarthy will turn 31 next August. Over the years, his necessity was the harbinger of innovation which helped him to get the term ‘mystery’ on his back. The Karnataka-born cricketer is on a mission to invent something new again, but he is confident of bringing that in by sticking to his basic plan and strength. It would not be easy, as the T20 format encourages batters to go hard against the spin bowlers.
All in all, in an era where mystery wrist spinners are hard to find, it was a smart move by KKR to keep Chakravarthy on their roster. Besides, his consistent performances in the past two IPL editions were so noteworthy that he deserves a place on this team. He will surely come back to his best roaring, and his last two outings were nothing but the bad days in the office.
One cannot ignore his last season’s leading wicket-taker ahead of the new edition. Chakravarthy was on the back of achieving the feat twice, and the KKR did no mistake by retaining him at a significant price.