Riyan Parag is one of India’s upcoming cricket players who is lauded by many teams and coaches for his potential.
After a bidding war between the franchise teams of Gujarat and Rajasthan Royals in the 2022 auction, the Royals managed to bring Riyan back to Jaipur with a winning bid of Rs 3.8 crores.
This was a great show of faith in a young player who joined the team in 2019 at his base price and endured some up-and-down performances over three years. But Riyan’s showings in domestic cricket have been consistent and speak for his talent.
He recently featured in a podcast series titled Greatness Starts Here in which he discussed his family’s passion for sports, learning from his father who was a Ranji cricketer for Assam, and what he dreams of achieving as a professional cricketer. Listen to the podcast episode and read excerpts from his chat with Suhail Chandhok below.
His favourite batting shot is the pull shot
Riyan is always seen taking on bowlers when he is at the crease. He says the pull shot is his favourite.
“The pull shot is both an easy and hard shot to hit. I have to judge the length and get into the right position. If it's a quick bowler, I might not have that much time to go on the back foot. So I might just go half and half, and then let my bat swing do all the work. And it's just a different type of feeling. It's a joy to hit the pull shot from the middle of the bat watching it go 90, 95 meters,” says Riyan.
His father and former cricketer Parag Das taught him how to play defensive shots
Riyan’s father Parag Das played 43 first-class matches and 32 List A matches for Assam. He was an opening batsman for Assam, and while he was always batting aggressive, he realized it was important for Riyan to learn to play defence properly.
“Mom keeps saying that dad and I look similar on the field as batsmen, but our batting is completely different. My dad used to start hitting from ball one, so he made it a point to not teach me how to hit sixes for a while. I still remember that it was the end of my Under-16 days, and my dad still hadn't taught me how to hit a six. All he taught me was defence. But he started giving me tips on how to hit sixes after I started playing the IPL,” says Riyan
Riyan’s double century in the Cooch Behar Trophy is his most proud achievement on the cricket field
Riyan scored 642 runs in 14 innings in the 2016-17 Cooch Behar Trophy. This included a personal best score of an unbeaten 202.
“I think it was the 2017 season of Cooch Behar Trophy and we were playing Rajasthan in Jaipur at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, and I got a double hundred that game. That knock was when I truly believed that I'm here to play and not just play the fool. That knock gave me an extra push to make it big.”
Riyan switched off the TV after going unsold in the first two rounds of the IPL 2019 auction
Riyan has always been confident in his ability, but he was only 17 year old when he went under the hammer for the first time in the 2019 league auction. He initially went unsold for two rounds before Rajasthan Royals signed him up for his base price.
“Before the auction, I gave trials for Rajasthan Royals and performed well. I got positive feedback. The coaches told me Rajasthan will pick me in the auction. So I was very confident. But during the auction, my name came up twice and both the times I didn’t get picked. I lost all hope, switched off the TV and went to my room. But then I was among the last ones to be picked in that auction. Mom came into my room, shouting and with tears of joy.”
Riyan will always remember his IPL debut for Rajasthan Royals against Chennai Super Kings
Riyan’s father had played against MS Dhoni in the Ranji Trophy and had told him a lot about the wicketkeeper-batsman. So when Riyan made his IPL debut against Captain Cool, he was obviously nervous.
“Before the match, I was very scared of going out there and playing with MS Dhoni, or even seeing him. I think I was bowling when MS walked in to bat. All the fans started cheering for him even though the match was in Jaipur, our home ground. Then when I was batting, the first ball I faced was from Imran Tahir. As I was taking my guard, out of the corner of my eye I could see that MS Dhoni was keeping wicket. It was just a surreal moment for me.”
Rajasthan Royals is like family to Riyan
Having spent three years with the team, Riyan feels as comfortable with Rajasthan Royals as he is in his own home.
“Rajasthan Royals has been a family for me. It's no longer just a team for me. They gave me my first break and supported me when I've not done well. They've picked me again this year despite me not having a great performance in 2021. So it’s like family for me. I wait for these two-three months every year to come to my second home with the Royals. The environment is wonderful.”
He’s learnt a lot from his English teammates in Rajasthan Royals
Riyan has had the pleasure of sharing the Rajasthan Royals dressing room with a lot of greats of the game, and he’s learnt quite a bit from them. In particular, the English players have taught him how to deal with failure on the cricket field.
“It is surreal to bat against Yuzi Chahal. And Ravi Ashwin has been giving me bowling tips in net sessions. All this is a dream come true. We hang out in the team room, having fun together. It is a different feeling altogether. But from the English boys like (Ben) Stokes and (Jofra) Archer, what I learned was that cricket is just a part of your life and it's not your entire life.”
He hopes to follow in the footsteps of MS Dhoni as a captain
At just the age of 20, Riyan has already captained Assam in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“I think I'm the very cool kind of captain. I won’t say I am like MS Dhoni, but I try to copy him a bit in that factor. I’m not very aggressive on field. Being the captain of the state team in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was humbling and a very big moment for me. I always think of myself as a captain, even if I'm not captaining the side.”
He wants to become a player and brand like Virat Kohli
Riyan says Virat Kohli is his favourite cricketer. But he admires him for more than just his on-field performances.
“I admire everything about Virat Kohli. Now players are afraid to even sledge him because he is always ready to give it back. And he has this adrenaline to go for everything. But what I admire most about him is what he does off the field – the shoots, the brand building. I admire that a lot, but yeah, mostly cricket, but then just everything.”
Riyan prepares for media interactions in front of the mirror
While he is very well spoken and confident, a young player like Riyan can get fazed by media interactions. But Riyan practices to get rid of any nervousness.
“I've trained myself in front of mirrors. Even now I just give random speeches in front of my mirror, in my bathroom. I wake up and give a speech and just think of what I'm going to say in the press conference. So I just keep on doing that and it just comes naturally to me now.”
Regularly representing India in Test cricket is Riyan’s ultimate goal
Much like every cricketer, Riyan wants to be a consistent part of the India team in red-ball cricket.
“Playing Test cricket is my ultimate goal. But going by the current circumstances, the T20 (national team) dream is looking more likely. So I want to focus on that. Once I achieve what I want to achieve in T20Is, I will shift my focus to Test cricket.”
Riyan wants to be the batting finisher of the Indian cricket team
Knowing his talent as a middle-order batsman, Riyan hopes to make it to the Indian team in a few years and then become a dependable performer.
“I want to be a consistent number five or number six – the finisher India really needs. And I don't want to get into the team early and not keep my seat in the team. I'd rather take a few years to get in but when I'm in, I don't want to get out of the team. I want to end my career consistently playing with the Indian team.”
Riyan is a foodie who loves momos and is waiting to celebrate by eating them
While he sticks to his diet during the season, Riyan hopes that he can end the season happily and celebrate by eating momos in Guwahati.
“I absolutely love momos. In Assam we have this traditional stall where we go and have a lot of momos. Right now, my nutritionist is keeping a check on me, but after the IPL I will eat a lot of momos at home.”
Riyan describes himself as a semi-professional gamer
Gaming has always been Riyan’s second love after cricket.
“I'm almost a semi-professional gamer. I'm in the top 5,000 in all of Southeast Asia in Valorant. Now the rankings have dropped as I haven’t played for two months (with focus on cricket). I play a bit of Counter-Strike also but Valorant is what I usually play the most.”