Minutes after he was picked for Rs 8.4 crore by Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 Indian Premier League Auction, the phone has not stopped ringing for Varun Chakaravarthy, the 27-year-old Tamil Nadu ‘mystery’ spinner who created a sensation. “About 600-700 journalists have called so far,” Chakaravarthy said with a tired yet content voice after he had created a sensation in the auction in Jaipur on Tuesday. The young lad’s journey is unique devoid of all the masala elements of Bollywood or Hollywood. Chakaravarthy’s story is the classic story of all middle-class youth, who struggle to find the right balance between a serious academic career or a sporting career.
Chakaravarthy’s story was well-highlighted before the auction started. He did not do well in sports in school, quit the game, studied hard and pursued a career as an architect. Suddenly, one day, he had enough and was prepared to jump back in the game. He dusted his kitbag, got back into the cricketing fray and his journey began. “I was just not happy in architecture. I could not express myself. I decided to give one last shot in cricket. If I did not gain much success, I was prepared to stay in architecture,” Chakaravarthy said in an exclusive chat to News Nation.
At the age of 25, making a cricket comeback is not easy for an individual in India, considering the regimented pathway many youngsters go through via U-16, U-19, U-23 before getting into Ranji Trophy. However, for Chakaravarthy, the IPL has provided opportunities to make rapid strides. After a stellar performance with a TNCA fourth-division club, he was picked in the Tamil Nadu Premier League where he played for the Karaikudi Kaalai franchise. Although success did not come immediately, things still worked out well for him.
“In the first year, I played for the Karaikudi Kaalai franchise. In that team, there was a video analyst Hari who spotted me. Next year, I went to the Madurai Panthers team but I did not get to play many games. But this year, it all changed. I got massive support from all the senior players in the side, especially from KB Arun Karthick, Thalaivan Sargunam,” Chakaravarthy said.
Change it did. He was the star for Madurai Panthers and his economy rate of 4.7 gave the franchise their first title. More success followed in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, with 22 wickets in nine games for Tamil Nadu. All this culminated on Auction day which was in Jaipur. When Chakaravarthy’s game was announced, the Chennai lad expressed his state of emotions.
'Glad to be with Ashwin'
“I was at home with my parents and we were glued to the TV,” Chakaravarthy said. As the price increased, the excitement went up. “I was just happy that my talent was recognised,” apt came the answer.
Chakaravarthy was picked by Kings XI Punjab and he secured the joint-highest bid by an Indian in the auction, level with Jaydev Unadkat. Hailing from Tamil Nadu, there would have been a temptation to play for the Chennai Super Kings, the three-time IPL champions. However, Chakaravarthy gave a surprising answer.
“I am from Chennai. However, I am glad that I am going to Kings XI Punjab as I will be playing with Ravichandran Ashwin. I spoke with Ash and he was very excited. The hard work begins now,” Chakaravarthy said. The immediate aim for Chakaravarthy, though, was brushing up on his Hindi. “Konjam teriyum (I know a little)”, said the 27-year-old on his Hindi and he joked he had to take Ashwin’s help in understanding. When asked how much he knew Hindi, he replied, “Balle Balle”, which is a trademark phrase in Punjab.
Chakaravarthy’s comeback is an inspiration for people who are caught in the crossroads of a career. The Tamil Nadu youngster signs off by saying, “Give it your best shot and decide whether you can do the best in what you choose. There is no specific time and place to do it,” Chakaravarthy said. After getting Rs 8.4 crore, these words are indeed significant.
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