Varun Chakravarthy - Seven variations, one million-dollar package

He has been mentored by Imran Tahir and talked up by Harbhajan Singh. Now he wants to show how well he can bowl under the IPL's bright lights

Deivarayan Muthu
A day after earning 42 times his base price of INR 20 lakh and becoming the joint-highest-paid player at the IPL 2019 auction, Varun Chakravarthy visited the famous Brihadeshwara temple in his hometown Thanjavur - in Tamil Nadu - letting everything sink in.
On Tuesday, Varun had sat down with his father Vinod, who is employed with the state-owned telecommunications company BSNL and his mother Malini, a homemaker, to watch Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings bid furiously for him. Ultimately, Kings XI prevailed, scooping up the Tamil Nadu mystery spinner for for INR 8.4 crore (USD 1.17 million approx). Varun has seven different variations and they now officially cost more than INR 1 crore each.
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing since yesterday evening," Varun tells ESPNcricinfo. "I was with my family watching the auction and it was a thrilling experience. The auction and playing the IPL itself is a different experience for me. I did not expect this massive amount and I was just hoping to be picked at my base price of 20 lakh.
"Now, I'm at the Periya Kovil [big temple] in Thanjavur with my parents. My father and mother have never objected to any of my decisions in life and so I owe them a lot. After taking up architecture at SRM University I gave up cricket, but my parents did not say anything. Then, when I returned to cricket, they supported me. I even edit a few short films when I'm free and they have always supported me in whatever I do. So, they are very happy that I will be playing in the IPL."
Having responded to hundreds of phone calls and text messages, Varun picked out Harbhajan Singh's tweet, talking him up as a potential India player, as the most memorable compliment.
"It was great to see Harbhajan put up that tweet," he says. "I had a chance to interact with him in Chennai when I was a CSK net bowler. We did not chat much about spin bowling, but to read that was special.
Varun, 27, said he had drawn inspiration from Imran Tahir, whom he had also spent time with at the CSK nets.
"I really started believing in me only when Tahir pulled me for a one-on-one and told me that I have the skill to play a higher level of cricket," Varun says. "He told his own story about how he has worked to get to the top and he's also a late bloomer, and that inspired me a lot. That helped me bowl well in the TNPL. Tahir also passed me his number and we keep in touch."
"Yes, the pressure is there but it's about how to deal with it. Whether you take it in a positive manner or negative manner - that matters."
Varun Chakravarthy
Varun relished the prospect of bowling alongside his Tamil Nadu team-mates R Ashwin, who captains Kings XI, and M Ashwin.
"[R] Ashwin anna [brother] called me up from Australia and wished me after the auction and I thanked him for showing faith in me. He has played cricket for so many years and I have just been a professional cricketer for one or two years. Naa enna solrathu avara pathi (What can I say about him)?
"I will soon talk to M Ashwin. My phone just hasn't stopped ringing from yesterday."
Varun was wary of the pressure a hefty IPL price tag can bring, but he hoped to overcome it and replicate his TNPL success on an even bigger platform.
"Yes, the pressure is there but it's about how to deal with it," he says. "Whether you take it in a positive manner or negative manner - that matters. I hope I can deal with it, work hard on my fitness, and perform for Punjab."
Varun's entry into the IPL is quite similar to that of the Karnataka mystery spinner KC Cariappa, who was signed by KKR for INR 2.4 crore (USD 400,000), 24 times his base price, in 2015. J Arunkumar, who has coached Varun in the TNPL and worked with Cariappa at Karnataka reckoned Varun could deal with pressure better than Cariappa did in his IPL stint.
"Varun's a fantastic talent. Many batsmen can't pick him, including me," Arunkumar quips. "There was a lot of talk about Cariappa when he made it to the IPL, but AB de Villiers took him on in one over and the balance shifted to the other side. Varun, I believe, can hold his nerve. He just has to keep backing himself like he did in TNPL. I've hard a word with Varun multiple times about temperament. I believe he has the clarity to do well at the higher level too."
Varun's first ball to an IPL player - Dwayne Bravo - at the CSK nets was a high full-toss. He says he brushed it off and kept Bravo quiet thereafter. What will happen when Kings XI's Varun comes up against CSK's Bravo, once again, in IPL 2019?

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo