It was a memorable return to Guwahati for homeboy Riyan Parag as he top-scored for Rajasthan Royals in their Indian Premier League 2024 match against Punjab Kings. For a second consecutive match, Parag bailed the Royals out of danger, scoring 48 off 34 balls, and guided them to a respectable total albeit in a losing cause.

Coming in at 40/2 in the seventh over, which soon became 42/3, Parag had to curb his natural instinct and drop anchor on a pitch where shot-making was difficult. He showed patience moving to nine runs off nine balls before scoring his first boundary.

He kept the scoreboard ticking despite frequently losing out partners at the other end. He also clocked 500 runs in IPL 2024 during his stay at the crease, before missing out on a well-deserved half-century, as he was trying to take the Royals past the 150-run mark.

That would have been his fifth fifty of the season, but he put the team’s cause ahead of his. The 22-year-old Parag displayed excellent composure to avoid unnecessary risks at a time when the Royals required him to stay.

The Royals’ top six-hitter in IPL 2024, with 31 sixes this season, showed it was not only about big-hitting as he scored six fours without any sixes, to take the team out of the hole.

“Riyan has had an amazing season. That promotion to number four has really suited him,” said the Royals’ Assistant and Fast Bowling Coach Shane Bond in the post-match presser.

“He is a quality player and I am really excited for him and proud of the way he has played so far.”

IPL 2024 has been Parag’s best season so far and by a fair distance, since making his debut in 2019 as a 17-year-old. The numbers that Parag has racked up this season are compelling.

He has scored 531 runs this season so far from 12 outings to the centre, including four fifties, whereas he had only 600 runs from 44 visits to the crease with two fifties, in the last five seasons. His average this season stands at 59.00, more than triple his average of 17.11 since his debut and till last year.

A look at the scoring rate also opens up an all-new dimension of Parag’s batting. His strike rate of 152.58 this season is way above his average of the past five years which lies at 121.50. Parag has hit 31 sixes in IPL 2024, which is more than the last five seasons put together.

Batting higher up has helped Parag’s case this year, as he played in the lower middle order or as a finisher in the past seasons. A breathtaking domestic season has also given the much-needed impetus to the youngster’s IPL journey.

Playing at number four, Parag scored seven fifties in 10 matches for Assam in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the premier T20 domestic tournament in India. He scored 510 runs at an unbelievable average of 85.00 and with a stupendous strike rate of 182.79.

“He has had a number of years batting at positions tough down the order. People forget how young he is, it takes some time when you are young,” Bond explained.

“But obviously you saw how well he played in domestic cricket this season, particularly in T20s, and he has just rolled on this season for us.

“The team is super excited for him, as he has borne the brunt of criticism over the last few years in terms of performances.

“So, to put that to the side and come out and play the way he has played at the number four spot this season, is a real credit to him for the work that he has put in,” the former New Zealand pacer acknowledged.