For a game that is the national stemming from a country that had us under their erstwhile oppressive rule for a substantial period of time in history, the sport of cricket has come to be particularly delightful a gamble for us Indians. NOT among the many sports that originated in India and a far cry from being even its national sport, the game of bat and ball however enjoys a popularity in the country that is unprecedented. It however indeed is the spirit of sports that has a nation of billions owing their allegiance to a game that hasn’t even been dominated by us for the longest possible time. But the 21st century did indeed herald a new era for Indian cricket as the country started hitting it out of the ground surely and steadily, even at the global stage. Prior to that, India did in fact have its own identity in the international cricketing world. The winners of the 1983 Cricket World Cup, the country however had never witnessed a game of cricket as exciting and as promising as it began to pan out since the turn of the new millennium.
Indubitably then, for a period that holds so much significance for the many prospects of the sport in India, the 21st century is sure the age and time for the many gentlemen of the game to be and feel alive. Of particular distinction therefore is also the player who is the first born in this century to have played first class cricket for the country. That coveted feat marks the identity of 18 year old Riyan Parag, who has been making history ever since he debuted in the field of competitive cricket as a mere 16 year old. The son of a former first class cricketer from Assam, Parag Das, Riyan has stepped into his father’s shoes quite diligently and looks promising enough to make the 21st century reputation count for Indian cricket, one more time.
It however isn’t just his father’s genes that have made a sportsperson out of the young Riyan Parag. Riyan’s mother Mithu Baruah is also a sportswoman herself, having been a national record holder swimmer of her times. Moulding therefore the professional cricketer Riyan Parag has been a set of committed and decorated athletes who have imbued in the rising young man a sense of sportsmanship competent enough to help him sustain his game at the highest level. That perhaps explains the mature temperament of this still teenager cricketer, that has earned him the applaud of some of the greatest figures currently ruling the gentleman’s game.
Indeed, for someone displaying his inclination to yield the bat- and the ball- at a mere 2 years of age, it is no surprise that Riyan already is not very much an unknown name in the cricketing circles of the country. And also perhaps internationally, courtesy his still short but successful stint in the Indian Premier League, where he once again has the 21st century inking making its debut. And his IPL debut for Rajasthan Royals in the 2019 season has been a particularly memorable one, when he was hailed already for being the find of the season, in recognition of his impressive talent with the bat and the ball. A promising all rounder, Riyan Parag however has been a presence in the realms of competitive cricket for years before going on to make his mark in the cash rich league.
Having made his debut in 2013, it was a 12 year old Riyan Parag who found himself in the under 16 squad of the Indian team. The bright beginnings of this incredible talent however could have been some couple years earlier when Parag impressed Sandeep Patil and almost made it to the under 16 team. But that was not to be and the young gun went on to make 2013 his maiden year as a professional cricketer. The very next year he was inducted into the under 19 side for Assam but it wasn’t until 2017 that Parag made the cut in the Assam Ranji Trophy team. His 2014 debut however was a memorable affair already as the young lad smashed a half century on debut in a match against Baroda.
But it was 2017 that proved to be the monumental year yet for Riyan as apart from being picked for Assam’s senior state side for the inter-state Twenty20 competition, he also was selected in the India U-19 team for two Youth Tests in England. And he did make every opportunity count, hammering two fifties in the first game itself. In fact one of his fifties went on to become the second fastest recorded in youth Tests behind only the flamboyant Virat Kohli. That same year, Riyan Parag shone in the domestic circuit as well. In his first class debut for Assam against Hyderabad, Parag achieved the distinction of being the first 21st century born to play a first class match. He also went on to emerge as the leading run getter in the U-19 One day Challenge Tournament, thus marking a really incredible year of cricket for him.
While Parag’s inclusion in the Indian squad for the 2017 ACC Under-19 Asia Cup did not yield the best of results, he still continued to hold his own when it came to scoring in domestic tournaments. In the 2016-17 Cooch Behar Trophy, Parag scored 642 runs in 14 innings with a best score of an unbeaten 202, setting the stage for further heroics to follow with both bat and ball. A right handed batsman who can bowl also useful leg- breaks, here’s a young man surprisingly meticulous in his craft for someone his age- perhaps Riyan Parag is the prodigy Indian cricket was forever waiting for to take charge!
But 2017 proved only to be a glimpse into what the future had in store for this phenomenally talented young cricketer. The very next year, Riyan claimed a place in the Indian U-19 World Cup team that went on to clinch the trophy. Already therefore a World Cup medalist at 16 having played a monumental part in the team’s success, Parag’s assertation of his cricketing skills was only a validation of the call up he received courtesy his successful overseas stint with the red ball as well as a promising domestic season.
With a profile of substantial successes etched to his name, Riyan Parag’s 2018 heroics also led him to be picked up by IPL franchisee Rajasthan Royals for a decent Rs 20 lakhs. He went on to make his debut for the side in 2019, scripting yet another record in his maiden IPL season as the 17 years, 175 days old Parag became the youngest ever in the history of the league to score a fifty. The feat was even remarkable for Parag delivered at a time when his team needed it the most, on a day when only a couple others besides himself managed to reach double digits. Whatever that might be, the stellar performance on debut sure made Riyan Parag the object of fancy of the 2019 IPL, what with his sensible game and matured innings almost saving the day for the Royal family.
Already hailed as the next MS Dhoni in his cool temperament as well as in his style of play, Riyan Parag sure seems to be a man of immense promise. Interestingly, the World Cup winning former captain of the Indian cricket team has also been Parag’s idol for as long as he can remember. All of three when MS Dhoni made his international debut, Parag’s brush with his idol is however not one of happy coincidences. Having played against his father Parag Das in the Ranji Trophy where he stumped him out, Dhoni accorded similar treatment to Riyan years later when he bowled out also the youngster in his debut IPL season. Of course as any other cricketer wanting to don the national colors, Parag also idolises Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar but perhaps his peculiar serendipity with Dhoni is what sets apart the World Cup winning captain from the rest of those whom Parag Riyan looks up to.
While most of Parag’s exploits in cricket stems from his dedication and hardwork, it also wouldn’t perhaps be wrong to term him a youngster striving for perfection in everything he does. Despite a demanding cricketing career, particularly one that has seen him been ravaged by injuries quite often, Parag stands out also as a brilliant student. Not just that as a young boy hailing from Assam, the smiling Riyan Parag has also been a professional dancer during his school days. Particularly with Bihu in which his identity lies, it’s no any surprise that the young allrounder has time and again broken into an impromptu Bihu celebration as an after dismissal ritual. Young, perky and sensible, we only hope that this young gun goes on to give himself many more reasons to do the Bihu dance more often in his career!