I’m going to play for India sooner or later: Riyan Parag | Crickit
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I’m going to play for India sooner or later: Riyan Parag

By, Kolkata
Jan 17, 2024 03:31 PM IST

Non-selection despite a record year has only strengthened the Assam batter’s resolve.

This is what Riyan Parag’s career has looked like since the last IPL. He was the highest scorer in the Deodhar Trophy, hammered the most sixes (23, ten more than the next best—Kerala’s Rohan Kunnummal) and also finished joint-third highest wicket-taker. Then came a world record seven consecutive fifties in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, almost leading Assam to the final of the T20 tournament. And now, he has hit two consecutive Ranji Trophy hundreds against Chattisgarh and Kerala. These are crazy numbers highlighting consistency of the highest order across formats but equally perplexing perhaps is how this has still not been enough to fetch Parag a national call-up.

Riyan Parag of Assam celebrates his century during the Ranji Trophy match (PTI)
Riyan Parag of Assam celebrates his century during the Ranji Trophy match (PTI)

More impeding seems to be the prejudice that Parag isn’t exactly the most conventional character. Be it on the field or off it, he likes to give it back. The latest incident that has got everyone talking was Parag’s elaborate celebration after reaching his second Ranji hundred, to which Parag too has reacted in typically uninhibited fashion on social media.

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“People are having fun decoding that, putting up different explanations (of his celebration). I’m not going to take that from them,” said Parag from Guwahati. “My vision is pretty clear. I want to enjoy every game I play and that’s what I am doing. I’m not thinking about the squads or tours, not thinking about the selections or even for that matter who is doing what in the Ranji Trophy,” he said.

Parag came on the horizon in the 2019 IPL, at the same time a set of talented age-group cricketers were starting to make a mark. A steady start with the Rajasthan Royals gave him a lot of visibility but backing it up at the domestic level is where Parag realised he has to do more than the average cricketer to get noticed.

“When you come from a state like Assam that people don’t associate with cricket, you always have to do double of someone playing from a bigger state,” he said. “And it’s a fact. There’s no cribbing about it. There’s no complaining about it. If someone scores three hundreds, you have to score five hundreds. It’s as simple as that.”

Parag has been doing exactly that too. One of the biggest reasons Assam has probably outdone themselves this year is Parag’s scintillating form. And to Parag’s credit, he hasn’t let the responsibility of leading a team come in the way of his primary job. “I have made it clear to the boys that the way Assam played cricket five or ten years back isn’t the way you guys are going to play when I’m captaining the team. As far as my job is concerned, it’s to score and win matches for the team.”

It’s this simple yet complex welding of two jobs—leading while persisting as the team’s batting mainstay—that has already given Parag a season to remember.

“For me to do what I have been doing is a big moral victory,” he said. “It’s a new thing, you don’t expect these performances from a kid coming from Assam because it hasn’t happened before. I’m not being arrogant about it. But I have worked so hard that it gives me a sense of satisfaction.”

Not being picked, thus, is bound to create some self-doubt. But Parag believes this is a momentary hurdle.

“I’m going to play for the country sooner or later, that belief is always there. No one can take that away from me. I’m fixated on that,” he said. “But I don’t have any particular target that I have to get this many runs in Ranji or in the IPL.”

However, with the wider world yet to take full cognizance of his potential, Parag has effectively walled himself to focus solely on his batting.

“I’m not even watching cricket games on TV. I have been talking to my dad, Zubin Bharucha (Rajasthan Royals’ director of performance), discussing a lot of cricket and analysing my game, how I can improve every day. It takes a lot of time so I don’t have time to watch anything else.”

Has he asked himself why he isn’t getting selected?

“I have, actually. Maybe I don’t have enough runs, so fine, I will get more runs. You can only control so many things. Syed Mushtaq Ali (Trophy) was in my control. I could have won us that. Now, it’s the Ranji Trophy. There is always room for improvement. If I get selected, very good. If I don’t, I have got to do that again. There’s only a certain period of time till I can’t get picked. That’s my focus right now.”

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