Rohit Sharma’s boyhood cricket coach on Sunday said he would be the “richest person in the world” if the India captain lifts the World Cup — despite never charging for a training session.
India on Sunday beat the Netherlands by 160 runs to finish the group stage with a perfect nine wins in nine games.
Dinesh Lad, a former railway worker and cricketer, has helped mold dozens of players during a 30-year coaching career, including Rohit and India teammate Shardul Thakur.
Lad has done this mainly as the coach at the Swami Vivekanand International School in Borivali, a northwestern suburb of Mumbai, far removed from the city’s famous cricket nurseries such as the Oval Maidan or Shivaji Park.
Whether they have gone on to international honors or not, all of his charges have had one thing in common.
“I never took money from anybody [for cricket]. I never took money from any parent,” Lad said during an interview at the school.
Rohit, 36, is set to lead India in a World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium tomorrow.
“I’m the happiest person in the world,” Lad said. “And if I saw the [World Cup] trophy in his [Rohit’s] hands, then I must be the richest person in the world.”
Rohit, averaging nearly 56 at the World Cup, is the only man to have scored three double-centuries in one-day internationals.
However, it was his bowling that captured Lad’s attention when he first saw the 12-year-old playing against his school team during a summer camp in May 1999.
“They were just 10-over games. They [Rohit’s side] scored about 67 in 10 overs and we chased that down in seven or eight overs, but in that time I saw Rohit’s off-spin — not batting — the way he bowled ... in just two overs he only conceded five or six runs and took one wicket,” he said.
Immediately impressed, Lad wanted to bring Rohit, then living with his uncle, into the school team and arranged a meeting with the director.
“I told him: ‘Your nephew is very good at cricket,’” Lad said.
However, there was a problem.
“His uncle asked me about the fees, which were 275 rupees [US$3.30 at the current exchange rate] per month. Immediately, he said: ‘We cannot afford that,’” he said.
“So I went to the director and said to him: ‘Sir, the boy is very poor, but he’s very talented, please give him a freeship [the equivalent of a scholarship], and then Rohit came to this school,” he said.
It was not until a few years later that Lad realized he had a batsman on his hands.
“One day I saw a boy at the gate before training, just playing with a straight bat,” he said. “So I thought: ‘Who is this?’ and then I saw it was Rohit.”
Lad wasted little time in promoting Rohit to his now familiar position of opener.
“In that particular match, he scored 140. After that, there was no stopping him. He was a natural batsman, I didn’t have to teach him anything,” Lad said.
What also stood out about the young Rohit was his will to win, he said.
“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,’” he said. “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.”
Having been persuaded to start coaching by a friend in 1993, Lad has guided 90 players into various strands of Mumbai youth cricket and the senior Ranji Trophy team, he said.
That list includes his son Siddhesh Lad, now a batsman with Goa, while Shardul refers to Lad as a “second parent.”
As a young cricketer, Dinesh Lad came under the influence of the late Ramakant Achrekar, the mentor of India great Sachin Tendulkar, and he too has received the Dronacharya Award, a national honor for sports coaching.
With his reputation now worldwide, a video tribute from former South Africa fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, whose son Thando Ntini was coached by Dinesh Lad, is an equally prized possession.
“It’s been an absolute honor to see the love you are giving my son,” Makhaya Ntini said after thanking Dinesh Lad for improving his son’s batting and bowling. “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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