“Patience, Persistence and hard work make an unbeatable combination for success.” The young and talent cricketer Siddhesh Lad is made up of all the above factors put together. This 23-year-old is a right-handed batsman and a right arm off break bowler. He plays for the Mumbai Team in the Ranji Trophy while he represents the Mumbai Indians in IPL.
This youngster was also captain of the Mumbai team in the Toyota University Cricket Championship. He has already had the experience of sharing the dressing room with the mighty stars of Indian cricket, assisting the Indian team during a game at the Wankhede stadium.
Today, he is working extremely hard so that someday he too could be a part of Team India. CricFit.com author Binaisha M. Surti met this talented cricketer at the Mumbai Cricket Association where he spoke to her about his triple century, to be a part of the Mumbai Indians team and Sachin Tendulkar’s last domestic appearance.
How did you develop a love for cricket? More importantly, what made you that good cricketer you are today?
Siddhesh: My father used to play cricket and I used to watch him play during his Club games… So when I was young he used to make me play Tennis ball cricket. Then, I started playing at my school. That is how I took the sport and started loving the game. Further, I did well in the age group cricket. I have always been motivated whenever I have played for Mumbai. Then watching senior players like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Aditya Tare has also helped me a lot…I would see how they practice and how they would work hard and I would try to do the same.
What is Siddhesh Lad’s cricketing story: Talk about the key experiences that you have got that made you a successful player?
Siddhesh: Initially I started playing at my school. I would play with my father who was also my coach. Later on, I would travel to Dadar from Borivali for my practice and it was never easy for me. But, I had a goal since a young age and that was to represent my country. I trained under Pravin Amre Sir for many years. I got my first major break after playing well in the under 25 tournaments and that year I was the highest run scorer in the age group. Then I got a chance to play in the one-day games in Ranji Trophy. There I scored a century in the very first game. That is how everything started for me in the senior team. Further, it took me 2 years before I made my debut in the Ranji Trophy team. After I scored 300 in the Under 19 team Vs Hyderabad, I was taken on the Ranji team when I was just 19 years old. I was with the team for 2 years but did not get a game. I was waiting for my chance and I knew that it was not easy to play in the senior team. I was happy being a part of the Mumbai team as I was getting to learn many new things at such a young age…But my main goal was to play in the final 11 and do well. To sustain in there is very important.
You scored a triple century in the under 19 age group for Mumbai. Could you share some memorable moments of that knock?
Siddhesh: The match was in Kandivali. It was a very memorable knock as I scored 300 not out. I will always cherish this knock of mine. I got to learn a lot of things from my coaches. During this game, I was given a chance to bat at no 3 by my coach and I was dropped on 0… (Smiles) I had gone into bat in the initial overs itself. The wicket initially was moving a bit. But then I had made up my mind that I should stay on the wicket for a long time. That helped me and later on the wicket was just like a batting paradise for me. When you are playing an innings like this, you have to be disciplined, spend some time on the wicket and analyze it and how the ball will behave etc. We were batting first and we wanted an outright win, my plan was just to go out there and play my shots. Initially, I wanted to settle down and then played my natural game.Prior to this game, I was getting big hundreds but could not reach that double ton. So Pravin Sir had told me that the day you score 200 I will come to your house for lunch. I was very happy to see him when he came to my place. (Narrates this incident with a sparkle in his eyes)
There was an India Vs England match at the Wankhede Stadium where you were asked to assist the Indian Team during that game, tell us about that experience? Did you get a chance to interact with the Indian Team members?
Siddhesh: I was away playing matches, later I got a call saying that I would be amongst the reserves for this particular game. I was very nervous since it was a big game. I went and gave the players drinks, during the drinks interval. I did practice my fielding with the fielding coach as I was almost going to go in and field for the Indian team. But later Sachin Sir went inside to field. I was there in the dressing room of the Indian cricket team and that in itself was a great and special feeling.
You have played the Giles Shied, Harris Shield, Kanga League, a lot of domestic cricket and now you are involved in the IPL too. How have you evolved as a player over the years?
Siddhesh: Yes definitely I have grown as a cricketer over the years. When you play a lot of games you learn a lot of things. There are a lot of tournaments in which the Mumbai team takes part. I have learned many things playing at the club level. I have been working hard and keeping goals. My short-term goal was to get into the Ranji team as soon as possible and later on I want to play for India too. During IPL, I spoke to Ricky Ponting about my technique. Practicing with him gave me a lot of confidence. A few of the boys and myself would go early for practice and Ponting would accompany us. I am sure all these things what I have learned will help me in the coming season.
Now since many Mumbai cricketers have retired, some are away on national duty. What was the responsibility given to you as a player during the last Ranji Trophy season?
Siddhesh: Initially I did not play because I was down with dengue. During this time Mumbai was not doing well. We lost our first 2 games, from there on it was very important for us to win games and I feel that somewhere our batsmen were not clicking. There was no pressure on me as such because it was the first game I would be playing … Moreover I was nervous because it was my first game of the season. But I was mentally ready for the challenge. I did well in the previous season and this season too I was confident that I would continue from where I left off. I was told to go out there in the middle and take my time, access the wicket and then play my natural game.
What kind of relationship do you share with your Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma, considering the fact that your father has coached him too? How is it being around him in the Mumbai Indians set up?
Siddhesh: Rohit has been a big motivational factor. Watching him play during our school times and also playing matches with him was something great… I love the way he bats, everyone appreciates it. I always go and ask him about my batting and he is someone who always tells me what he thinks! We are good friends too; I spent a lot of time with him in the Mumbai Indians squad. I always love to listen to what the players discuss in the team, rather than to talk myself.
How was the experience of leading the Mumbai Side in the Toyota University Cricket Championship? What are the key things you learned from this tournament?
Siddhesh: It was a very good feeling leading the Mumbai side, we gelled well as a team and before this tournament, I had played the Ranji one day games as well. The rapport was very good with the entire team. It was a very big exposure that we players got during this tournament as it was shown live on TV. Everyone was motivated to do well. TUCC was a great platform to showcase our talent. It was a challenge to captain the side and I was very excited to play the games. When the crowd cheers for you it is a great feeling. But I have learned that you should play your natural game and not succumb to the pressure of playing big shots for the crowd.
You were also the youngest player in the Mumbai Ranji Team who shared the dressing with the mighty Sachin Tendulkar during his last domestic stint. What is the most valuable advice he has given you?
Siddhesh: Sachin Sir is very approachable; you can go and talk to him about anything. I once asked him what do you do sitting in the dressing room before you go to bat? He told me that he visualizes a few things as to what will be going on in the field and how the wicket is behaving etc. I keep such things in mind before I go out to play.
How was the dressing room atmosphere on the last day of Sachin Tendulkar’s final domestic game in Lahli?
Siddhesh: Everyone was sad and emotional in the dressing room. We all shared our thoughts and Sachin Sir was there listening to everyone. I told him, just like every other cricketer, watching you play…that is how we started playing. Sachin Tendulkar has been the biggest motivational factor for everyone. Then we cut a cake and took pictures. But he is such a great man that he went about doing things just the way he would be doing in every other game. We were chasing at that time, towards the end of the game and just because he batted for a long time we won the game. He had few plans so he discussed them with everyone in the dressing room; he told us what we had to do in that game, how we had to go about with various things. That is how he was, determined in his very last game as well.
How difficult was it playing the Kanga League during the rainy season?
Siddhesh: It is never easy…playing the Kanga League in the rainy season because the conditions are difficult. The wicket is very slow; the ball stops and comes to you. If it rains then the ball will skid… you have to be careful as the outfield is wet. I just used to try and play my shots well and I have been successful playing the tournament. I have a scored many runs. But playing the Kanga League is fun, I love playing it. It is a different experience altogether.
What role has your father played in making you that successful player you are today?
Siddhesh: He has played a very big role not only while I play cricket but also in my life. It is because of him I am a disciplined person. Whenever I would do something wrong he would correct me. He showed me the way while I would play my game, to play my shots and he would tell how hard I need to work if I had to be a professional cricketer. He is my biggest inspiration today.
Being so young what was it like just being around legends like Tendulkar, Ponting, Bhajji, Jonty Rhodes, Pollard, and Simmons?
Siddhesh: It is great to be with them as you get to see how they train, how they bat in the nets. We would gym together. Fielding with Jonty I have improved a lot. Staying with all of them would help me a lot in the coming season.
Share some memorable moments you have had with some of the great players from the Mumbai Indians squad?
Siddhesh: Winning the IPL in my first year itself with the Mumbai team was very memorable and then we enjoyed ourselves later on by having a party. Going to Antilia was great… (House of Mukesh Ambani).
Who did you get along best within the Mumbai Indians set up?
Siddhesh: Simmons was my very good friend. We used to be together. I took him to a few places in Mumbai. We had a lot of fun.
What is Siddhesh like as a person off the field?
Siddhesh: I am more of an introvert, who does not like to talk much. I am a very quiet person and I do not get angry easily. I love to eat Mexican food. I like to travel…I went to the US and then lately Hong Kong. Of late I like to cook as well.
What would you term your approach while playing as, more of a defensive one or an aggressive one?
Siddhesh: I would say it is more defensive…Now I have started to play my game according to the situation the team is in. I am someone who likes to play under pressure. It works for me!
Hemant Waingankar gave you a Sai Baba locket…and you are only the third player to have received it after Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar. How did that episode unfold?
Siddhesh: He had seen me batting and on meeting me he told me that he was a big fan of mine. He always wanted to meet me, so I went to his house. It was there that he gave me the locket and I felt very good. It was something very special for me. I wear that locket all the time when playing.
Siddhesh is all excited, calm and ready to give the Rapid Fire segment a shot…
Favourite fielding position: Point
Any other sport besides cricket: Football
One thing you cannot dowithout: Food
How many bats will we find in your kit bag: 5 to 6 bats
Batting, bowling or wicket keeping (pick any 1): Batting
Best friend in the Mumbai Ranji Team: Aditya Tare and Shardul Thakur
Cars or Bikes: Cars
Your dream since childhood: To play for India
The moment when you scored your 1st century: Awesome
The most mischievous player in the Mumbai Ranji Team: Me
Most embarrassing moment on field: When you drop a catch
What is the craziest thing a fan has done for you: This year itself I got a love letter from a girl. (Laughs)
What makes you the happiest person in the world: Playing cricket
If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be: My height
If you were given a chance to star in a film, which one would it be: Titanic
Your favorite time pass when you are with friends: Playing Table Tennis, pool or bowling.
The most popular player in the Mumbai Indians set up: Pollard
Your biggest support system when it came to you choosing cricket: My family
The moment when you received the locket from Hemant Waingankar: Special