Riyan Parag is an Assamese cricketing icon in the making, and perhaps he will trigger the sport in the northeast, which has many sporting gems, but not cricketers so far
Northeast India and Cricket? Doesn’t really have a familiar ring to it, does it? For years, the northeast has given the country many prolific athletes in various sports. Cricket, though, remains mostly an unexplored territory, professionally.
As a matter of fact, there has not been any player from the northeast in the senior Indian cricket team, ever.
And the IPL, the yearly cricket fest of the country, has only ever had one player from the northeast, pacer Abu Nechim Ahmed, who played for the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
It’s not that kids here have never heard of the game.
A lack of professional coaching widens the gap as players from this region find it difficult to make it to the national team. Perhaps not having a familiar face, a local legend of the game to idolise, or someone from your region to cheer for, may have made the upcoming cricketers to not look at playing cricket as a career.
Gully cricket is played here too, and there is as much love for the game as anywhere else in India. You will find children playing on the streets, just like in any other part of the country.
But the transition from local to first class and then to the national team, just doesn’t happen.
Infrastructural development has left a lot to be desired for. Apart from Assam, the other states do not have much of the basic infrastructure to provide quality coaching.
A lack of professional coaching widens the gap as players from this region find it difficult to make it to the national team.
Perhaps not having a familiar face, a local legend of the game to idolise, or someone from your region to cheer for, may have made the upcoming cricketers to not look at playing cricket as a career.
That may be set to change with the rise of young Riyan Parag.
Hailing from Assam, he plays for the Rajasthan Royals. Son of former Ranji player Parag Das and former national record holding swimmer Mithoo Barooah, Riyan became the youngest player to score a fifty in the history of the IPL.
When Riyan played Chennai in the previous season, he was caught behind by MS Dhoni. Interestingly, he was pictured as a 5-year-oldwith MS from when India played Pakistan in Guwahati in 2007.
He was a part of the 2018 Cricket U-19 World Cup winning squad picking up three wickets.
He then played the 2019 IPL for Rajasthan, when he became the youngest player to score a fifty in the history of the tournament, achieving the feat against Delhi.
Captain Steve Smith has praised him saying he has a great future.
With the ongoing IPL, now in its thirteenth season, fans across the country have again turned to their TV sets.
Fans from the northeast will have their eyes on young Riyan, who is into his second season in the IPL.
Friends from his coaching days remember Riyan as a hardworking humble young lad, always eager to learn.
He always had an affinity for batting and would not let others to bat, they joke, while adding that even at that age, and they knew he would make it big. Under the guidance of his father, he has grown as a player.
This year, the coronavirus has delayed all sporting events, but now that the IPL is underway, it provides the stage for Riyan and many like him to shine and make a name for themselves.
He is still very young and has huge potential.
His performances are promising and a national team call-up will be the next obvious step.
By doing so, he might open the gates for an entire region to the Indian cricket setup and be the local legend whose stories will be told for years to come.
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Soumyadeep is from Guwahati, Assam. An engineering graduate turned student of journalism, he wants to travel, try different cuisines and meet new people, all in search of a story. He is also a football freak and likes to read a good book or watch a good film from time to time. At 24, he is still finding his feet in this world, living by the motto: “learn as you grow”.