CHENNAI: For a 17-year-old, Riyan Parag has already struck off many entries that may still be unchecked for those even twice his age. An U-19 World Cup winner, the third-youngest player in IPL, and now the toast of the cricketing fraternity, Steven Smith included. Five days before Parag smashed a 31-ball 47 to get Rajasthan Royals past the finishing line against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Australian already had many words of praise for the teenager. “He’s terrific young kid, He works really hard. He’s a fit and strong kid,” said the Australian when the young right-hander had again starred with the bat, scoring a 29-ball 43 in their successful chase against Mumbai Indians. “The way he batted, even in the first game that he played, he probably taught a lot to the experienced players a little something out there, even myself.”
It’s early days to say that Parag has set the cricketing world on fire. But what makes his achievements notable is the fact that he comes from a part of the country that has hardly seen representation at such a level. Abu Nechim is perhaps the last notable IPL name from Assam. Even East Zone as such has not had players popping up on franchise rosters of a tournament that keeps producing fairy tales. Jharkhand has one big name, and a few others including one who copied the said name’s hairstyle. Bengal hasn’t churned out ones that have made dailies scramble for headlines. Odisha has followed the same narrative, let alone Tripura.
“Even in the time he’s spent in the domestic circuit, Riyan has shown maturity beyond his age,” remarked Assam coach Syed Zakaria Zuffri. “To make his presence felt even after being in a team that isn’t counted as a powerhouse is an example of that. People have been talking about him since the U-19 World Cup, but Riyan has just been focussed on doing what he does: play cricket.”
That determination apart, one aspect of Parag’s batting that seems to have caught the fancy of pundits is his big-hitting. Even during Rajasthan’s chase against Kolkata on Thursday, he was intent on going for maximum when given a chance. That also included a pulled six that deflated Prasidh Krishna, and a helicoptered four off Prithvi Raj Yarra.
“I definitely feel his batting skills are suited to the white ball. He’s got good timing, and he’s also got a build that not many will have at this age,” observed Zuffri. “His mother (Mithoo, a national swimming champion) has taken extra care of his diet, and the results are showing. And he’s also started turning into a useful bowler. Even when he joined us, he could bowl both leg and off-breaks, and he’s been switching between them effectively for Royals.”