Scan the Mumbai Indians IPL roster and you will find the name of a certain Siddhesh Lad in it. The name might not have gained national prominence so far, but ask his Mumbai Ranji teammates about him and the words of praise don’t stop flowing. It is quite possible that in the future, the whole country will wax lyrical about him.
Representing the country is what Mumbai’s 24-year-old lower middle order batsman, Siddhesh Lad dreams of. Lad doesn’t possess the biggest frame, but he’s used to punching above his weight. His father, Dinesh Lad, who not only coached Siddhesh but Rohit Sharma as well, enrolled his son into Praveen Amre’s Shivaji Park Gymkhana Academy. In no time at all, Siddhesh was playing in the under-14s at the age of 10.
“He (Amre) liked my talent,” says Lad. “It was a great experience. I’ve learned a lot from Praveen sir. I still talk to him sometimes when I meet him. Technique-wise, he is very good. Players like Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa are his regular students, so yes, it was a great experience to work with him.”
Honing his skills at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana, word began to get around of a lad named Lad in the grass-root cricket circles. School cricket transitioned into college cricket, with Siddhesh playing for Rizvi College. He recalls that one of the first tournaments to give him a platform at that level was Red Bull Campus Cricket.
“It was a great experience. It was a platform for every one of us to showcase our talent on a big stage. We won the Mumbai finals and went and played against Kolkata. We also then went to Sri Lanka to play the Asia Cup. Overall, it was an awesome experience for us, we never had a platform like that before. We played against KL Rahul, and Shardul Thakur was on our team (who plays for Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL).”
Gaining experience in a tournament which many current IPL players once played in, was important to Lad’s cricket education. He is looking forward to the first time he dons the Mumbai Indians jersey and steps out on the field. He has been a part of the franchise for three years now. Lad understands that for a young cricketer like him, hard work and patience go hand in hand.
“Obviously, I am waiting for my turn,” he tells us, “and I know when I get it, I have to grab the opportunity and cement my place in the eleven. We have all the ‘star’ players in our team, so getting an opportunity is difficult but I am waiting, I know I will get my opportunity, today or tomorrow. It’s very important that I grab any opportunity that I get.”
While the experience of being a part of the Mumbai Indians franchise and sharing the dressing room with stalwarts is invaluable, Lad is now focussed on getting a full Ranji season under his belt. 2013 was his breakthrough year when he was the highest scorer for Mumbai under-25s in the CK Nayadu Trophy. A month later, he scored 93 for Mumbai against Karnataka, walking in to bat at 152 for 5, and although it was in a losing cause, Mumbai discovered that he was a reliable batsman.
However, a herniated disc in his back was followed by a bout of dengue as he completed his recovery. This loss of momentum delayed Lad’s beginning to his second season. He admits that it was a tough time, but tells the story of his comeback with a steely resolve in his voice.
“When I got this injury, it was very difficult for me to come back and play at the same level as I was playing previously. So that season after the injury did not go so well for me. Then what I thought about was all the mental adjustments, that I needed to do. When I came back, I scored a 100 in my first innings.” Proper rising-to-the-occasion stuff that.
Lad’s most significant innings so far has been the 88 runs he made in the Ranji Trophy final of the 2015-16 season against Saurashtra. Coming in to bat in the first innings trailing by 40 runs with six wickets remaining, he demonstrated patience and perseverance and strung up strong partnerships with the remaining batsmen, particularly with the No. 11 batsman Balwinder Sandhu. Lad was dropped on 24, and adjusted his game accordingly thereafter.
“I made up my mind that if I go after a bowler I have to go full, and I can’t play half shots. That was what was in my mind, to go hard at the bowlers, and try and score as many runs as I can because I knew that the wicket was seaming a bit, and it was very difficult for the number 11 batsman to come and play. Luckily, he supported me well, and that’s how we built a 100 run partnership, I think that’s the highest run partnership with the number 11 batsman playing for Mumbai in any Ranji Trophy.”
Mumbai went on to win that match and the Ranji Trophy. So while many batsmen build their reputation on big centuries, reports of which stick out of the back pages, Lad’s double digit score went down in Mumbai cricket folklore, and it truly announced his arrival.
With success in Test cricket, the question about his T20 temperament was only natural. How comfortable is he really playing T20 cricket, having played so much of the longer format in the domestic circuit? In his mind, there is no question of an either/or scenario here.
“I think it’s very important to play the longer format,” he said. “If you can play the longer format well, you can do well in ODIs or T20s, that’s how I feel. I try to play my cricketing shots when I play T20, and yes, I’ve been playing a lot of 4-day games in the past 2-3 years, because the Ranji season is so long. Before Ranji. we go to the KSCA tournament, that is for one month, and then we play Times Shield, which is a 3-day format. So I’ve been playing a lot of 4-day Cricket but I don’t mind it, I love playing 4 days, and I know when I get my chance playing T20, I’ll do well.”