Varun Chakravarthy: From a backup option to Kolkata's lead spinner
Tamil Nadu spinner Varun Chakravarthy would have considered himself lucky to get even a couple of matches under his belt when the Indian T20 League season started last month. Kolkata already had Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav earmarked as their lead spinners. Even though there could have been a case for a third spinner in the XI as the season progressed into the latter stages, Chakravarthy still had Manimaran Siddharth to compete with.
However, as things turned out after the beginning of the season, Chakravarthy got his much-awaited chance just within Kolkata's second match of the tournament. The lack of a third spinner in helpful conditions was clearly visible in Kolkata's loss to Mumbai in their season-opener and that's when they turned to Chakravarthy while going into their second game against Hyderabad.
The 25-year-old had a forgettable debut for Punjab in the last Indian T20 League season. It was Narine, Chakravarthy's present Kolkata teammate, who had taken the mystery spinner apart for 25 runs in his very first over of the tournament. And a year later, here he was playing alongside Narine in his first match for Kolkata.
It turned out to be a much better outing this time as he not only bowled an economical spell but picked up the vital wicket of David Warner to set up Kolkata's seven-wicket victory. Chakravarthy returned with excellent bowling figures of 4-0-25-1 in that match, which was even better than Narine and Kuldeep, both of whom went wicketless.
One match later, Kuldeep was dropped from the side owing to his poor returns with the ball -- one wicket at an average of 74 after three games. However, Chakravarthy had already cemented his place in the side by then with another strong spell of 4-0-25-2 against Rajasthan, which powered Kolkata to another commanding win by 37 runs.
He was now the most preferred spinner in the squad after Narine, which must have been pretty hard to imagine at the start of the season, and to make things even more unbelievable, Chakravarthy became Kolkata's premier spinner after just three more matches when Narine got reported for a suspect bowling option.
The previous match against Bangalore was Chakravarthy's first match in absence of Narine and also, as Kolkata's lead spinner. Even though they suffered a heavy loss by 82 runs, Chakravarthy still bowled an impressive spell of 4-0-25-0. While he went at only 6.25 runs per over in this match, all of the other Kolkata bowlers leaked runs at an economy of above 9 runs per over.
After six matches in the season, Chakravarthy has become Dinesh Karthik's go-to bowler in all situations. He has registered five wickets to his name at a pretty good economy rate of 7.45 and those wickets include big names like Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni. Those names in his wickets' column speak volumes about Chakravarthy's class and ability as a spinner, and he can be only expected to get better as the season progresses further.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Kolkata