From Riyan Parag to Mayank Agarwal - five players who stood out in Deodhar Trophy 2023

Two allrounders and a fast bowler feature among the top performers in the competition

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Riyan Parag dashes across to field off his own bowling, India A vs Pakistan A, ACC Emerging Men's Cup, Colombo, July 19, 2023

Like in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup, Riyan Parag gave a good account of his bowling in Deodhar Trophy  •  Asian Cricket Council

The Mayank Agarwal-led South Zone ended the Deodhar Trophy unbeaten as Indian domestic cricket's first white-ball competition for senior men threw up some compelling performances from youngsters and seasoned veterans alike. Here's a look at some of those who stood out.

Riyan Parag

Known for his Bihu dance and spontaneous jigs on the field, Parag made bowlers dance to his tunes over the past two weeks in Puducherry. He was the highest run-getter, highest six-hitter, joint third-highest wicket taker and Player of the Tournament. Two of his five List A hundreds came here. He nearly made a third in Thursday's final, falling five short to eventually swing fortunes South Zone's way.
Parag's first century of the tournament, a 102-ball 131, was a backs-to-the-wall effort that vaulted East from 57 for 5 to 337 for 8 against North. He put together a 235-run stand with Jharkhand wicketkeeper Kumar Kushagra to bail the side out, before closing out the game with four wickets. Then his 68-ball 102 not out in a 150-run stand with Kushagra decimated West Zone in a must-win game. In the final, with East blown away in a tall chase of 329, Parag brought them back from nowhere with a blistering 65-ball 95, once again with Kushagra lending support. If not for the two, the margin of defeat could've been a lot bigger than 45 runs.
Batters in the top six who can bowl regularly are becoming increasingly rare in Indian cricket. This is why Parag's performances stand out. He bowls offspin, legbreak, is working on a carromball under R Ashwin's guidance at Rajasthan Royals, and is even trying his hand at being ambidextrous with some left-arm orthodox. Parag was also part of the India A squad at the ACC Emerging Teams Cup, where he played a big role with the ball.
Only 21, Parag has already seen some unparalleled highs, like being part of an Under-19 World Cup win in 2018, and some lows like the one at IPL 2023, where he was dropped after a series of indifferent performances. All along, though, Royals have often reiterated their belief in his abilities, and so far this domestic season, he's shown signs of finally being the package they hoped he would be when they bought him back at the auction for INR 3.8 crore.

Rohan Kunnummal

He began his first-class career with six fifty-plus scores in his first seven innings. He was the second-highest run-scorer at the 2022-23 Duleep Trophy, and was fast-tracked into the India A set up. He had a dream Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he topped the charts for Kerala with 414 runs in seven innings at an average of 103.5 and strike rate of 131.84. Then his form dipped and Kunnummal was forced to go back to the drawing board.
He has put that setback behind by beginning the new season with a string of tall scores at the Deodhar Trophy. Kunnummal has had this reputation of playing copy book cricket, but at the Deodhar Trophy, he was the aggressor more often than not at the top of the order with Mayank Agarwal, the captain, happy to play second fiddle.
He put together two hundred-plus and one near-hundred opening stands with Agarwal as South bossed their way through the competition. Kunnummal began with 70 against a competent North attack and then hit the high notes again in the final, where his 107 set the game up. Those runs came off just 75 balls in further signs of him having worked on his big-hitting game, something IPL talent scouts at the venue would've done well to take note of.

Vidwath Kaverappa

He began the season with a chart-topping Duleep Trophy, and extended the wicket-taking spree into the Deodhar Trophy as well, where he was the highest wicket-taker with 13 scalps at an average of 14.53 and economy of 4.70. Kaverappa, 24, is tall and can extract awkward bounce on docile surfaces.
He's still very much mid-130s in terms of pace, but is working on upping that a notch. What works in his favour is his relentlessness and accuracy, which helps him work batters over, like he did in the Duleep Trophy by prising out Cheteshwar Pujara, Suryakumar Yadav and Sarfaraz Khan in one spell. Last month, he picked up his first-class career-best. At the Deodhar, he opened the tournament with a dream spell of 5 for 17 to shoot out North Zone for 60.
He only began bowling with a cricket ball from age 18, and the rise over the past six years has been swift. He's now the spearhead of Karnataka's pace attack in domestic cricket. Earlier this year, he earned a maiden IPL call-up with Punjab Kings. More compelling performances such as the one in Deodhar may accelerate his journey to a maiden IPL cap and beyond at the very least.

Shahbaz Ahmed

He makes an effort to state he's a batting allrounder who is happy to chip in with his left-arm spin whenever possible. Either that's outright modesty or he doesn't believe in his abilities as much as others do. He was neck-and-neck with Shams Mulani for the best spinner in the competition, finishing with 12 wickets in five games, the joint-second most in the competition. He averaged over nine overs per game in the competition and conceded at an economy of just 4.14. Shahbaz was impressive with his loop and guile, and also made an impression with a deceptive arm ball that he has been working on.
With Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel being the first-choice in the ODI set up, Shahbaz has the chance to gain valuable exposure now in Ireland, where he could potentially earn the T20I cap. Then there's also the Asian Games and a couple of shadow tours later in the year against South Africa and England Lions. It's fair to say, this could be a moving season for Shahbaz, who at 28 is slowly beginning to come into his own. He'd be the first to admit, though, that his batting has been a bit of a letdown in the season so far, but he'll have chances to rectify that anomaly going forward.

Mayank Agarwal

It's to Agarwal's credit that he maintains the same motivation and desire to perform at the domestic level at 32, despite being a big-ticket IPL player and an India international. With Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal firmly in India's plans at the top of the order along with Rohit Sharma, Agarwal has fallen behind in the queue. With more youngsters such as B Sai Sudharsan and Ruturaj Gaikwad knocking on the doors, Agarwal faces a big ask in his quest to add his five ODIs and 21 Tests, the last of which was in March 2022.
Agarwal maintains his drive to perform stems from wanting to derive enjoyment from the game and win games for whichever team he plays for. In largely seamer-friendly conditions, Agarwal struck two combative half-centuries and was the third-highest run-scorer at the Duleep Trophy. He carried on from there to finish the 50-overs competition second on the run-charts behind Parag. His 341 runs in six innings were just 13 behind Parag's impressive tally.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo