In Friday’s Deodhar Trophy game between East Zone and North Zone, Riyan Parag gave a glimpse of why Rajasthan Royals took a punt on a 17-year-old in 2019.
Walking out to bat with East at 52 for four, Parag scored a 102-ball 131 to catapult the team to 337. To add to his spoils, Parag picked four wickets as East cruised to an 88-run victory.
The outing added to Parag’s purple patch in List A cricket. The 21-year-old was part of the India A team for the recently concluded ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.
“I wore the Indian jersey after like five years. I last played for India at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup. I got emotional the first time I wore the jersey. Representing your country is a big thing, even if it is for the India A team. It just felt surreal,” Parag told Sportstar.
Not many among the emerging crop of players have polarised opinions like Parag has done. Over his career, still in its nascent stage, Parag has been greeted with scrutiny and support in equal proportions.
While his contemporaries from the Under-19 World Cup-winning India team - Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Arshdeep Singh and Shivam Mavi - have played for the senior team, Parag remains a prospect.
In his 54 games in the IPL (Indian Premier League), Parag has scored 600 runs at just 16.2, prompting questions about whether he can make the jump. In 2023, the all-rounder was dropped from the lineup after a string of poor performances.
Players from subsequent Under-19 teams seem to be climbing the ladder faster than Parag. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Tilak Varma, from the 2020 batch, were included in the squad for the Asian Games while Parag missed out. The Assam cricketer, however, is unfazed.
“There’s no reason for me to be angry or sad. I have learned the hard way that when you want things a lot, it never works out. So, I’m just taking it a game at a time and trying to be grateful for whatever cricket I play,” said Parag.
Taking things in his stride and moving on is a lesson Parag learnt in the IPL.
“When I first came in at 17, I did not know how things worked. And now, five seasons in, I think I’m way more mature than I would have been otherwise. I’m just trying to be mature outside cricket (also) which shows in the game. Right now, I’m playing Deodhar. I had a chat with my family last night about just enjoying this. And today, I came out here and enjoyed myself,” said Parag.
Parag hopes to build on his recent purple patch and check one box at a time.
“After the IPL, I had an interview (where) I said I wanted to play for the India A team. This was the emerging India A team. Now, my focus is playing for the actual India A team and taking it forward step by step from there.”
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