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“He Understands His Game More”: Kumar Sangakkara Lavishes Praise On Rajasthan Royals Batter Riyan Parag

Ahead of his side’s Indian Premier League (IPL) match against Delhi Capitals (DC), Rajasthan Royals Director of Cricket Kumar Sangakkara said that all-rounder Riyan Parag will get an extended run at number four, pointing out how he is more mature and hungry following the rise of teammates Yashasvi Jaiswal and Dhruv Jurel to nationwide fame with Team India. Riyan started his IPL 2024 campaign with a 29-ball 43 (with a four and three sixes) against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) in his side’s campaign opener.

The youngster was promoted to number four following years of batting down the order. This knock could kickstart Riyan’s breakout IPL season after being trolled for underperforming for years despite playing on largely unsuitable batting positions.

Last season, Parag scored 78 runs in seven innings. In IPL 2022, his numbers were 183 runs in 14 innings. In 2021, he made 93 runs in 10 innings. These numbers look heavily underwhelming when one also looks at his domestic cricket numbers for Assam, where he shows a more all-round side of him as a batter.

“It was a cricketing decision,” Royals’ director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said of Parag’s promotion in the batting line-up, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. The Sri Lankan legend acknowledged how difficult it was for Parag to bat down the order and not be able to showcase what he is truly capable of.

“We looked at how he has performed over the years. It is a very difficult thing for someone like Riyan, who has an overall game, just to always only get the toughest parts of the game where he has to come in and up the run rate at the death overs.”

“We all felt that he has a much more important role that he can play for us. And the hard work that he did leading up to the season, all the runs he scored at domestic cricket, all played a part in that decision,” he concluded.

Sangakkara said that Riyan will have to repay the faith and trust put in him and keep working on his game.

“He is good against pace and again so that important position of four was ideally suited for him.” he added.

During his 43-run knock against LSG, he had a 93-run stand with skipper Sanju Samson and started attacking only when he felt fully set at the crease. This approach was in line with his playing style for Assam, for who he has scored truckload of runs, especially in white-ball cricket.

In four matches of the Ranji Trophy 2023-24, Parag made 378 runs in six innings at an average of 75.6, with two centuries and a fifty. His best score was 155.

Parag also took Assam to the semifinals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 competition, ending the tournament as the leading run-scorer with 510 runs at an average of 85, with seven half-centuries. He also took 11 wickets.

In the Deodhar Trophy, a 50-over tournament last year, Parag ended as leading run-getter while playing for East Zone, taking his team to the finals. In five matches and five innings, Parag made 354 runs at an average of 88.50, with a strike rate of over 136. He scored two centuries and a fifty. Most of his scores came in pressure situations and he found himself driving his team out of trouble after losing early wickets or going through a collapse. He earned the ‘Player of the Tournament’ title in the competition.

Sangakkara said that Riyan’s maturity stands out and he has changed a lot in terms of self-awareness, knowing what is good for him and his lifestyle etc.

“The biggest thing we have seen in Riyan is maturity. Irrespective of the support we offer players, self-awareness of your game, knowing what is good for you, how your lifestyle is both on and off the field – all of that has changed in Riyan,” said the director of cricket.

“He’s still a very, very young cricketer (aged just 22 years). We should not forget that. He is also been hugely in the focus over the years as one of the faces of the franchise, of the younger brigade. He has also seen the huge jumps that [Yashasvi] Jaiswal and [Dhruv] Jurel have made, and he’s got a hunger there now and an example to follow into the national team.”

“We know players have a variety of ambitions; – IPL is one of them. He understands his game more and taking on more responsibility has become non-negotiable for him,” concluded Sangakkara.

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