Riyan Parag makes a case for himself in World Cup season | Crickit
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Riyan Parag makes a case for himself in World Cup season

Apr 16, 2024 07:56 AM IST

The explosive batter is playing important knocks for table-toppers Rajasthan Royals and wants to keep going

It’s still weeks away from T20 World Cup selection. There will be pressure on players, some will prefer to talk about it, most will shy away from discussing it. Among the contenders, Riyan Parag must figure somewhere at the top. But he isn’t sweating over it. Irrespective of how the selectors gauge his personal form vis-a-vis Rajasthan Royals’ performance and the demands of India’s T20 set-up, the last few months have already been a personal triumph.

Rajasthan Royals' Riyan Parag plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (AFP)
Rajasthan Royals' Riyan Parag plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (AFP)

“If you told me last year I'd be in this position (in World Cup reckoning), I would not have believed you,” Parag said on Monday, ahead of RR’s match against Kolkata Knight Riders. “I'm just glad to be doing what I am doing, and I just want to continue that. I want to take it one game at a time and focus on how I can win more matches for the team, because that's more important.”

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This IPL, Parag has batted as if it’s a video game, always finding a way to take on bowlers and plunder runs. It’s early days, but 284 runs in the first six games (behind Virat Kohli 319) at an average of 71, a strike rate of 155.19 and 18 sixes (most by an Indian batter before Monday’s game) point to his huge appetite for runs. This was as Parag had promised, its shining preview coming in the form of 510 runs (avg 85, SR 182.79) in the last Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, all at No.4.

Every now and then he has lapsed into reality. Against Lucknow Supergiants, he miscued a slower ball, against Royal Challengers Bengaluru a flick against Yash Dayal was timed so perfectly that Virat Kohli didn’t have to move at short midwicket. And then at Mullanpur, he got the height but not enough distance. Above all those lapses however glitter a slew of sensational scores — 84* against Delhi Capitals, 54* in an emphatic win over Mumbai Indians and a turbo-charged 76 where he dismantled Gujarat Titans’ bowling with five sixes.

Heartening in all those innings is the conviction with which Parag selects his shots, and the will to take a game to the end. Be it powering Royals to a formidable 185/5 batting first or guiding them to an attritional win at the Wankhede Stadium after the top three fell inside seven overs, Parag has quietly evolved into a dependable finisher. Home or away hasn’t mattered because Parag has honed the ability to tune out everything unnecessary.

“You really blank out when you're going into the middle,” he said. “When you reach the stadium, maybe you might be distracted. You might give them an ear and listen to them. But once you start playing, it's all just white noise.”

What has become Parag’s strength, and he speaks of it, is his refusal to let circumstances overwhelm him. A certain level of detachment was desired, though not easy to achieve, especially after Parag had gone through a long phase without much returns. “Life outside of cricket really affects you,” he said. “And that’s one major part which has played in my career, how I deal with it. It didn't really start out well, I took a lot of things to heart that were being said about me.

“I just had to figure out what mattered to me, whose opinions mattered to me and I figured that out eventually. And that has helped. Cricketing-wise, playing at No.4 is, again something which I'm used to doing in domestic cricket in different situations, more common situations, actually. But yeah, it's been a mix of both, emotionally and skill-wise.”

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