Varun Chakravarthy, architect to Team India spinner

Though a mystery spinner, Chakravarthy — the Indian cricket team’s new T20I recruit for the tour of Australia — is one of the honest and silent guys around.

Varun Chakravarthy scalped a five-for against Delhi Capitals.   -  IPL

Varun Chakravarthy loves to use the word ‘surreal’ in his interviews. Poet and critic André Breton, who published The Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, defined ‘surrealism’ — a movement celebrating visual arts and literature — as a medium to join dream and fantasy to reality. And that’s precisely the mystery spinner’s life at present.

From being a tennis-ball cricketer — a fast bowler and a wicketkeeper initially — to riding his scooter to SRM University to study architecture, Chakravarthy has taken a quantum leap to earn a spot in the Indian cricket team for the T20Is in Australia in November.

READ: Varun Chakravarthy - from first IPL five-wicket haul to maiden T20I call-up

Five years ago, the 28-year-old had no clue if he would play cricket for a living. He was working as an architect with D+Y Architecture Interiors and had taken a break from the sport. But in his head the lines, angles, T-scales often collided with a spinning ball. He took up spin seriously after injuries were a hindrance to his development as a pacer.

The road to the big league started two years ago when the Thanjavur boy earned an IPL contract of Rs 8.40 crore with Kings XI Punjab after a head-turning season in the hyperlocal Tamil Nadu Premier League. He picked up only nine wickets but bowled 125 dot balls in 10 innings for the champion team Siechem Madurai Panthers. “It was like a movie. I didn’t expect anything more than the base price [Rs 20 lakh]. But something else happened. I was even trending on Twitter,” he said in a KKR video.

He had also made his List A debut for Tamil Nadu around the same time.

Unfortunately, a finger injury ruled him out of the IPL after one game. Back with a new side in KKR, Chakravarthy’s career took off last weekend. The right-arm spin bowler picked his maiden fifer [5/20] against a powerful Delhi Capitals and two days later, he was included in the T20I squad for the tour Down Under.

READ: Varun Chakravarthy - A tale of hope and redemption

Chakravarthy is a self-made man. He developed the mystery element of seven notable variations — leg-spin, off-spin, arm ball, googly, carrom ball, the flipper and the top spinner — while he was on a break.

Early sparks

Damodaran Rohit, his TNPL skipper at Madurai, had sniffed champion stuff in team-mate Chakravarthy. “I knew he would be a big shot because I couldn’t play him and even the main players in the team couldn’t play him. But he needed confidence to execute his variations in the game. I wanted to get the best out of him.

“I was criticised a lot for picking him in the first round of the TNPL. The management didn’t know him and if he was that good, the other team [iDream Karaikudi Kaalai] wouldn’t release him. I had a bit of tug-of-war  to get him to play,” he told Sportstar on Tuesday.

Team man

Chakravarthy isn’t hungry for wickets. He does as told. “He is a very silent and down to earth guy. When we first spotted him, he was picked by Karaikudi as a batsman. He quit his cricket for two years to learn the mystery spin skill. I always knew him as a fast bowler and a wicketkeeper. When my coach told me there’s this guy bowling mystery spin, I didn’t expect he would be the guy to do this.

“He is very understanding. If you want him to do something for the team, he will be the first one to do that. There are bowlers who want to take wickets to be in the limelight but he is someone who would want to do what the team needs,” said Rohit, who preferred  introducing the youngster into the attack after the powerplay. “I told him I would use him in situations where he can gain confidence. I didn’t want to use him in the powerplay, use him just after that.”

The net bowler hurdle

Chakravarthy trained himself at local government grounds by bowling two to three hours a day. He had one session to bowl to Dinesh Karthik at Chepauk before being picked as a net bowler for KKR. Rubbing shoulders with Sunil Narine and bowling to Andre Russell hardened the youngster.

As luck would have it, when Narine got reported for suspect action in this season, Chakravarthy held the mystery spin end tight. In 11 games so far, he picked up 13 wickets with 89 dot balls at an economy of 7.18.

The heat is now on the Australian cricket team. They better hire like-for-like net bowlers for preparation, though it will be difficult to find Sophocles-like eyes with the wisdom hidden in the beard.

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