Varun Chakravarthy-1
Varun Chakaravarthy of the Kolkata Knight Riders bowls against the Royal Challengers Bangalore during Match 31 of the Indian Premier League at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on September 20, 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL/PTI Photo

They call Varun Chakravarthy a mystery bowler. He’s basically a leg-spinner with a baffling array of variations. Every ball is a mystery to the batsmen. But for batsmen, who watch the rotation of the ball rather than the bowler’s grip, it usually shouldn’t pose problems. Yet Chakravarthy has had enormous success, especially with the Kolkata Knight Riders.

His spells against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday (September 20, 2021) that fetched three wickets was further evidence to skill. Bowlers with a vast repertoire of variations tend to experiment, and they may not have complete control over all deliveries. It matters most in white-ball cricket. And that’s where Chakravarthy has thrived. It reflects the amount of work he’s put in to gain mastery over his variations.

RCB batsmen would vouch for that. For it was his triple strike that killed off any prospect of a late rally from Bangalore. Andre Russell had earlier broken the RCB spine with a two-wicket burst, including a yorker that sneaked under the bat of AB de Villiers Chakravarthy ensured that Glen Maxwell didn’t linger around long enough to launch a counterstrike.\

To IPL watchers, Chakravarthy’s probing spells aren’t a surprise: he’s done it time and again. The man from Tamil Nadu also has the confidence of skipper Eoin Morgan, who’s fully aware of Chakravarthy’s wicket-taking capabilities, which is why Morgan tends to open the bowling with his mystery spinner. A wicket in the first over could help KKR seize the initiative as the setback would put the rivals on their backfoot.

The tactic has worked occasionally. But Morgan persists; that’s clear proof of his confidence in Chakravarthy. There’s a bit of Muttiah Muralitharan in Chakravarthy, although the Sri Lankan was an off-spinner who could also send down leg-breaks. Chakravarthy is a leggie who could fire an off-break too. There’s some similarity in delivery stride and the passion that burns in their eyes. The comparison ends there. Muralitharan is a legend of the game, a stature that’s beyond most bowlers, Chakravarthy included.

Part of Chakravarthy’s success is the respect he commands from the batsmen. They tend to be cautious when playing him. That’s half the battle won, especially in white-ball cricket, where the trick is to score quick runs. Too much caution is dangerous as that allows Chakravarthy to dip into his variations.

The KKR ace’s success in IPL 2020 fetched a call-up to the Indian side. But poor fitness delayed his international debut, which finally came in Sri Lanka in July. More recognition arrived in the form of a place in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup.

Chakravarthy seems to love the UAE wickets. So he could be India’s frontline spinner for the World Cup. Morgan will be worried. The tables will be turned at the World Cup. Morgan would have to face his weapon when he leads England. Chakravarthy sure will love that challenge.