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KKR dropping Varun Chakravarthy can be 'catalyst for improvement' - Daniel Vettori

Ian Bishop "not surprised" by KKR's call, given the situation they find themselves in in the tournament, but believes the spinner can still turn it around

Daniel Vettori, the former New Zealand and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain, believes Varun Chakravarthy "needs a Plan B very soon". His lack of a counter against top-quality batters who have figured out the methods that previously brought him much success could be one of the reasons for his massive dip in form this IPL season, Vettori said on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time Out.
On Thursday, Knight Riders left Chakravarthy out of their XI, replacing him with the uncapped seamer Harshit Rana for the match against Delhi Capitals. The change came even as Knight Riders were desperately trying to find form and get a move on on the points table; as on Wednesday, they were eighth on the table.
"The numbers aren't there. It looks like he hasn't been deceptive like he has been in the past," Vettori said. "He isn't a big turner; it doesn't look like he's turning the ball as much. It looks like batsmen feel comfortable taking him on. Those factors may have pushed KKR towards taking this decision [to drop him].
"Maybe they're trying to provide a catalyst for him around improvement, around finding his game plans. It just seems like he isn't the bowler he was last year. It just felt like he wasn't the bowler who was destructive like in the past."
Chakravarthy's numbers are telling: four wickets in eight matches at an economy of 8.82. Chakravarthy has been wicketless in each of the three previous matches, while also not completing his quota of overs. He has an economy of over 12 in this period.
This is in sharp contrast to his form at IPL 2021, where he picked up 18 wickets in 17 matches, and was a key to their stunning turnaround in the second half of the season that culminated in Knight Riders making the final.
"I'm being brutally honest. I'm not totally surprised," former West Indies pacer Ian Bishop, who was also part of T20 Time Out's panel of experts, said. "He's been going for 12 an over for the last three games or so. Four wickets in eight games, and it has come down to a point where KKR have less wriggle room.
"Six points [so far] this season. They have to put out the best team at Wankhede to try and get two points. These two points are critical. It's not quite now or never yet, but it's kind of getting very close. So, I'm not totally surprised with Varun, in the conditions they're going to play today."
Bishop feels surfaces haven't slowed down as much as expected so far, which could be one of the reasons for Chakravarthy's effectiveness. As such he isn't a big turner of the ball but depends on minute variations and grip off the decks.
"I don't ever give up on a player. I always feel that at some point, even if it is at an advanced stage of your career, you can learn something. So, while we've seen (Yuzvendra) Chahal and Kuldeep (Yadav) do some good things, I still don't think some of the pitches have offered [much to] Chakravarthy, who doesn't spin the ball a lot anyway," Bishop observed. "The ball deviates just that much, so he perhaps needs a little more grip than some of the surfaces [are offering] to be at his very best.
"Maybe he'll come back in at some point later in this tournament itself if the conditions and his confidence and form are right, provided he's not injured. I won't give up on him. Maybe they're giving him a break to say 'mate, take some time to refresh yourself', there's a possibility to come back now or next season."
Vettori also believes the axe could just be temporary and may be a way to revive him, provided it is communicated as much by the team management. Having coached Royal Challengers in the IPL and Brisbane Heat at the BBL, Vettori has had to take similar decisions in the past, like dropping Harshal Patel in 2017 before he returned to win the Player of the Match award.
"I subscribe to the theory that when you're in poor form, there's a time where you're waiting to be dropped," he said. "When you keep playing and playing and playing, you don't get a chance to work out what's going wrong. Therefore, if you do actually leave a player out and give them strong communication, they can almost reset themselves.
"Like Bish said, you don't ever want to give up on a player, particularly a retained player, particularly a player with that skillset, how effective he can be at his best. This just may be a reset, he can go away a little bit, work with the bowling coach, work with coaches outside of the KKR setup and just see where it gets him to. He's also a fresher, so when he goes back into the team, it won't be about how bad he's been. He's had a break, fresh start, let's see what he's got."