The popular theory is that a ‘mystery spinner’ not named Rashid Khan either dies a quick death or slowly slips into inconsequence. The most famous example is Sri Lankan Ajantha Mendis, who bamboozled batters for a couple of years before disappearing into thin air.
In last year’s Indian Premier League, that fate had seemingly befallen Kolkata Knight Riders’ Varun Chakaravarthy. Where he had scalped 18 wickets en route KKR’s run to the final in 2021, he had just six wickets to show in 2022. Ingloriously, he was even benched for a few matches and soon lost his spot in the Indian National team.
The current season has been one of rediscovery for Varun. The 31-year-old has already picked up 13 wickets from just eight matches (average: 18.38). Seven of those have come across two thumping wins against Royal Challengers Bangalore, including the one on Wednesday where he was the player of the match (4-0-27-3).
“You have to be confident every ball you bowl… if you slip in your confidence, the effort is not going to translate into your bowling,” Varun said after the win. “I watched some videos of the previous matches I played against RCB. I could see the technical aspects of their batters and I focused on that.”
It’s not that he wasn’t as meticulous in 2022. But his desire to evolve and try more variations – like giving the ball more air and slowing down his run-up – didn’t fetch the expected results. T20 bowling is indeed about disruption and a bowler who bowls six balls at the same spot – a desirable quality in Tests – is flirting with danger. But the requirement to hit the perfect length is non-negotiable.
KKR’s Varun Chakaravarthy during the IPL 2023 match against RCB at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
| Photo Credit: K MURALI KUMAR /The Hindu
“In the off-season, I worked on my accuracy rather than my variations,” Varun explained. “Another aspect I focused on was revolutions on the ball. I was working with A.C. Prathiban, a spin coach back in Chennai.
“In terms of tactics, whatever Abhishek Nayar tells always works for me. So, they both have played a big role in my comeback. I also played Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy and that definitely helped me prepare for the IPL.”
It perhaps helps that Varun plays for KKR, an outfit that has always backed the unorthodox. Sunil Narine is in his 12th season with the club and Kuldeep Yadav played for five years. This campaign, it has unearthed the 19-year-old Suyash Sharma, who Varun thinks is a future India player. It is a habitable sweet spot and Varun’s safe-space.