At some point, you will have to pick me for India, says confident Riyan

PTI, May 30, 2024, 9:19 AM IST

To the world, it might be perceived as extreme arrogance but when Riyan Parag looks into your eyes and tells you that ”I am going to play for India no matter what”, it is extreme self belief in one’s own skill-set and abilities.

”At some point, you’ll have to take me, right? So that is my belief, I’m going to play for India. I don’t really care when,” Parag would sound bullish yet confident during his exclusive interaction with PTI on Wednesday. No youngster has polarised opinions in a short span of time as the 22-year-old from Assam, who enjoyed a breakout IPL season with 573 runs at a strike-rate close to 150, coming in at No.4 for the Rajasthan Royals.

In five previous years of IPL, Riyan, a 2018 U-19 World Cup winner didn’t even enjoy a 200-run season and a vicious social media was more than unkind to a youngster who was making a transition from boyhood to manhood.

”When I was not scoring runs — I said this in an (earlier) interview as well that I am going to play for India,” Parag said on the sidelines of a Red Bull Campus Cricket tournament here on Wednesday, a tournament he lauded for giving exposure to talented youngsters.

”That is me believing in myself. That is not me being arrogant. That is what my plan was with my dad (former Railways and Assam player Parag Das), when I started playing cricket when I was like 10-years-old. We (a joint project) were going to play for India regardless of anything.” There is a strong possibility that Riyan along with Abhishek Sharma and Harshit Rana will be picked for the tour of Zimbabwe.

”Whether it’s the next tour, whether it’s a tour in six months, whether it’s a tour in one year… I don’t really put my thought behind when I should play. That is the selector’s job, that is other people’s job,” Riyan said. Having understood the flipside of social media the hard way, he has stopped taking things to heart. ”You’ve got to be very quick and very sharp when reacting to things. Social media and all of that play a big part with mental pressure. Because once you start listening to those things… it always starts in a merry way, right?,” he asked. ”Once you start performing, people really hype you up. Once you start reading that, you get that satisfaction of listening to other people or watching other things.” This year’s IPL for him was a testament that he belongs to the elite level. ”But what I’ve figured out in the last year or two is that I’ve got to have an undeniable stack of proof that I belong at this level. Which means (that) me practising a lot, me practising at that level, practicing those situations,” Parag said. What has been his biggest takeaway from the season. ”The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from the last season is that believing in yourself actually works out, because a lot of people say a lot of different things, whether it’s negative, whether it’s positive. But at the end of the day, what matters is what you think about yourself and that is what I’ve been for,” he said. Playing for RR since his debut season in 2018, Riyan’s totals in five prevoous seasons made for a sorry reading —- 160, 86, 93, 183, 78.

”I had a lot of rough seasons, more than (the) nice ones and I feel having that constant belief in yourself, that you actually belong in this level, that you can actually do things that you (had) dreamt of, has been a constant and that will stay throughout.” ”What you saw this year in the IPL is how I play domestic cricket. I take the onus up to myself, I take the expectations, I take the burden upon myself to deliver and that is why I play the best,” he said. So what changed from previous years? ”I was not doing that in the IPL. I was taking way too much pressure, keeping my expectations way too high and not doing the basic things right.” Additionally, playing at a crucial No 4 slot for RR also worked. ”That is what I figured (that) I had to do this year; of playing at my favourite position as well, No 4 . I was like, okay, ”I do this at domestic cricket, this is the same thing I’m going to do in IPL and let’s see how it goes”. It worked out perfectly,” he said. For a long stretch in this IPL, RR were on a roll but their campaign petered out in the playoffs, finishing third. Parag acknowledged there is still some disappointment lingering on. ””I’m still dealing with it. I got back home and I was super sad. The night after the game, it didn’t really sink in. But then the day after the match, and before the final, it was tough,” he said.

”It’s tough, but then that’s how cricket goes. There are world-class sides that are playing the tournament, world-class players that are playing the tournament,” Parag added.

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