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The rise and rise of Riyan Parag: Overcoming the odds and making No.4, a slot of his own

A little more than a month ago, Parag Das had to travel to Bengaluru for a couple of days to be with his son. During that short visit, Parag spent a lot of time trying to motivate his son Riyan Parag, who was undergoing a rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy (NCA).

Those were anxious times for the family as a shoulder injury had forced Riyan to miss out on a large part of the domestic season, and with the Indian Premier League (IPL) nearing, Parag – a former first-class cricketer himself – wasn’t quite sure whether Riyan would be ‘hundred per cent’ ready before the tournament.

However, Riyan blocked out the noise, ignored things that were not in his control and worked hard on his recovery. Following a strict training regime set by the NCA staff, he was soon back on track, and when he joined the Rajasthan Royals (RR) camp – after missing out on the first few days – the 22-year-old was buoyant with confidence.

“There was a time when we thought that this season would be over for him,” Parag told  Sportstar. Riyan suffered a shoulder injury during the first game of the Vijay Hazare Trophy against Gujarat, and had to miss out on the remaining games and even after returning to action, he suffered a similar injury while fielding in a Ranji Trophy fixture against Bengal. “Those were challenging times, but he was mentally very strong and made a quick recovery, but even then, I was a bit apprehensive about how things would pan out in the IPL as he did not have much time to prepare for the tournament,” Parag said.

But Riyan showed quick progress and by the time the IPL got underway, the RR team management decided to elevate him to No.4 – a position familiar to him. Batting at the same slot for Assam in the domestic season, Riyan had scored 510 runs at an average of 85 and strike rate of 182.79 in the last edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and with a clarity of role and enough backing from the team management, he has been able to carry that form into this season’s IPL.

Also read | Boult, Chahal and Riyan Parag condemn Mumbai Indians to third straight defeat

Recovered from fever just in time

With scores of 43, 84 not out and unbeaten 54, Riyan has earned himself the Orange Cup, amassing 181 runs in three outings. But the journey hasn’t been easy. Soon after the season opener against Lucknow Super Giants, Riyan was down with slight fever and cold. “He was under the weather after the first game, and could hardly get up from the bed for three days. But he recovered just in time for the game against Delhi Capitals and played that smart innings,” Parag said, adding: “It’s a bit of a tough phase for him, but he is very strong…”

Ever since making his debut for Royals in 2019, Riyan was mostly used as a finisher, and after some not-so-memorable seasons, the team management finally seems to have got things right by allowing the youngster to play in his ‘comfortable position’.

“People can have different opinions, but it’s a fact that in T20s, batting at No. 7 or No. 8 is always a challenge. There would be times when one needs to reach the target with seven balls or two overs remaining, and in such circumstances, it becomes a challenge to ensure that you score those runs but also don’t lose wickets. It’s not easy to bat in such situations,” Parag says. “But now batting at No.4, he knows how to accelerate his game. For Assam, he always plays at No.4, and now with the Royals backing him, he has been able to prove his mettle…”

Riyan Parag’s parents Parag Das and Mithoo Baruah.

Riyan Parag’s parents Parag Das and Mithoo Baruah.
| Photo Credit:
Shayan Acharya/ Sportstar


Riyan Parag’s parents Parag Das and Mithoo Baruah.
| Photo Credit:
Shayan Acharya/ Sportstar

Assessing the situation

After playing a key role in Royals’ win against Delhi Capitals last week, Riyan kept the momentum going at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday as he brought up yet another fifty and also ensured Royals’ convincing victory against Mumbai Indians. Despite chasing a small total, Royals stuttered in the PowerPlay, but Riyan seemed to be in no hurry.

By his own admission, he had to swallow his ego by not going after his match-up Piyush Chawla and forge a crucial partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin to keep Royals in the game. Once that strategy paid off, Riyan wrapped things up with two sixes and a four off Gerald Coetzee to not only bring up his second consecutive half-century of the season, but also guide the team home with four overs to spare.

“It was all about playing according to the situation,” Parag said, adding with a smile, “People are praising him for hitting those sixes off Coetzee, but for me, his approach against Bumrah was more important. The way he defended the inswing deliveries was quite commendable…”

While his wife Mithoo – a former international swimmer – was present at the Wankhede Stadium, Parag watched the game on television at his Guwahati residence. “I don’t like watching his games from the ground, because there are a lot of distractions. I prefer watching it on television and analysing his game properly,” he said.

Ever since his formative years, Parag has played an instrumental role in Riyan’s career, but now with Royals’ seasoned coach Zubin Bharucha mentoring him, the young gun has come a way. Putting aside the trolling and criticism, Riyan has finally been able to prove his mettle, so much so that Royals’ assistant coach Shane Bond went on comparing him to a young Suryakumar Yadav.

By the time the IPL gets over in May, Riyan may or may come closer to earning his maiden India call-up, but for the moment, staying focused and playing to his strength remains the mantra.

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