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Decoding the mystery: Who is Varun Chakravarthy?

Meet the man who gave up a career in architecture and returned to his favourite game with unreal results

Deivarayan Muthu
The uncapped Tamil Nadu player, whose base price was INR 20 lakhs, went to Kings XI Punjab to for INR 8.4 crore. It was the joint-highest bid at the auction. Here's all that you need to know about him:

Varun Chakravarthy who?

Varun Chakravarthy began playing cricket when he was 13 years old, and until 17 was a wicketkeeper-batsman. Then, after being rejected several times in age-group cricket, he ditched the game and pursued a degree in architecture at the SRM University in Chennai. After completing the five-year course, Varun worked as a freelance architect, but playing tennis-ball cricket rekindled his passion. So he quit his job and joined CromBest Cricket Club as a seam-bowling allrounder.
But a knee injury he sustained during the second match relegated him to the sidelines and prompted him to become a spinner. Having copped punishment from a bevy of batsmen in tennis-ball cricket on 18-yard pitches, Varun expanded his repertoire, transforming himself into a mystery spinner.

Mystery spinner? Are you kidding me?

Nope. After returning from injury, he signed with Jubilee Cricket Club in the fourth division of the robust Chennai League, and honed all his variations there. In 2017-18, Varun bagged 31 wickets in seven games at an average of 8.26 and economy rate of 3.06 in the one-day competition. He also pitched in with the bat, his unbeaten 74 sealing Jubilee's one-wicket win over Prithvi Cricket Club in February earlier this year.

So, what are his variations?

According to Varun, he has seven variations:
- Offbreak
- Legbreak
- Googly
- Carrom ball
- Flipper
- Topspinner
- A slider aimed at the toes of batsmen to york them

What's his claim to fame?

Tamil Nadu Premier League 2018, where he spun Siechem Madurai Panthers to their maiden title. Even before enjoying a breakout season in the TNPL, he had bowled in the Chennai Super Kings nets. He spent four days with CSK side in the 2018 season before the franchise's home games were moved out of Chennai to Pune. About two weeks later, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik and team analyst AR Srikkanth called Varun to bowl at the KKR nets, where he exchanged notes with Sunil Narine and his spin coach Carl Crowe.

Tell me about his TNPL stint

He unleashed all the variations he had honed at Jubilee on a bigger platform and became the flagbearer of Madurai's run to the title. In the first two seasons of the league, Madurai did not win a single game and their winless streak stretched to 15 when they lost their first match of the 2018 season to Dindigul Dragons. Varun, though, had impressed with figures of 0 for 23 in his four overs even as all the other Madurai bowlers conceded at over 11 runs an over.
Madurai finally sealed their first-ever win in the TNPL in their next game against Chepauk Super Gillies, when Varun took 3 for 16 to help his side defend 153. He continued to perform the dual role of taking wickets as well as restricting the batsmen, particularly in the Powerplay and slog overs. All told, Varun bowled 40 overs, of which 125 balls were dots. His economy rate of 4.7 was the best among bowlers who had bowled at least 15 overs.
CSK's batting coach Michael Hussey, who worked as a commentator in the TNPL earlier this year, picked out Varun as one of the most exciting talents.

Has he done anything noteworthy after the TNPL?

Varun broke into Vijay Cricket Club's squad, which is usually filled with the top Tamil Nadu players, in the first division of the Chennai League and helped the side clinch the 50-over VAP trophy. The next day he received his maiden call-up to the state squad for the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy. He made a splash in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, too, ending as the top wicket-taker in the group stage, with 22 wickets in nine matches at an economy rate of 4.23.
He subsequently made his Ranji Trophy debut for Tamil Nadu and trialled with Mumbai Indians ahead of the IPL auction.

What happened at the Mumbai Indians trials?

Having established himself as someone who could bowl the tough overs in the Powerplay and the death for both Madurai and Tamil Nadu, Varun was given similar scenarios at the Mumbai trials.
"They gave me a situation and made me bowl in the Powerplay and at the death," Varun told ESPNcricinfo. "I did fairly well against some players who had been released by other franchises. Hopefully, somebody picks me in the auction."

Okay, anything else that's interesting?

Varun is addicted to Snickers chocolate bars and is a fan of actor Vijay.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo