Lad, who operates from the Swami Vivekanand International School in Mumbai’s Borivali suburb, has never charged a fee for his coaching services, stating, “I never took money from anybody (for cricket). I never took money from any parent.”
As Rohit Sharma, 36, prepares to lead India in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, Lad expressed his joy, saying, “I’m the happiest person in the world. And if I saw the (World Cup) trophy in his hands, then I would be the richest person in the world.”
Recalling the moment he discovered Rohit’s talent, Lad reminisced about the 12-year-old’s impressive off-spin during a summer camp in 1999. Despite financial constraints, Lad arranged a freeship (scholarship) for the young cricketer, allowing him to join the school team.
However, it wasn’t until later that Lad recognized Rohit’s prowess as a batsman. Promoting him to the opening position, Lad witnessed Rohit’s natural talent, stating, “He was a natural batsman, I didn’t have to teach him anything.”
Reflecting on Rohit’s determination to win, Lad shared an anecdote from a crucial match, saying, “We were chasing 240 to win and were 30/4. I sent him a message, ‘you have to keep batting or we are out of the tournament.’ So he sends a reply via the 12th man: ‘Tell Sir, don’t worry, we are going to win the match.’ He’s a very confident boy.”
Lad, who started coaching in 1993, estimates that he has guided around 90 players into various levels of Mumbai youth cricket and the senior Ranji Trophy team. Among his proteges is his son Siddhesh and Shardul Thakur, who regards Lad as a “second parent.”
Having received the Dronacharya Award, a national honour for sports coaching, Lad’s reputation extends globally. A cherished video tribute from former South Africa fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, whose son Thando was coached by Lad, highlights the coach’s impact on players. Ntini expressed gratitude for Lad’s role in improving Thando’s batting and bowling, stating, “It’s been an absolute honour to see the love you are giving my son. You are not doing it for the sake of being a coach; you are doing it for the love of the game.”
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As Rohit Sharma prepares to lead India in a pivotal World Cup clash, Lad’s influence and the legacy of his coaching resonate not only in India but also in the global cricketing community.
(With inputs from AFP)