'No one makes someone a cricketer. As a coach, you can only guide them.'
All-rounder Shardul Thakur owes a lot to his coach Dinesh Lad.
If not for Lad, Thakur would have found it difficult to get top class coaching early on in his career. The young boy had to commute nearly three hours from his home in Palghar to Mumbai for his cricket coaching during his under-15 days before Lad convinced Shardul's father to let him to move in with him so he could use the hours spent daily on travelling to work on his game while also ensuring quality education.
"I believed that if Shardul moved to Mumbai and got proper coaching he will become a top player as he could not travel daily 3 hours from Palghar to Mumbai," recalls Lad, whose son Siddhesh played for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.
Lad, who was conferred with the Dronacharya Award by President Draupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Wednesday, November 30, 2022, has been trying hard to get a ground where he can train more children on a regular basis. His repeated pleas to local politicians has yielded no result.
"I don't have a ground of my own to train kids or organise matches for them. If I have to hire a private ground, then I have to pay around Rs 10,000 per match. I cannot afford that," Lad tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian in the concluding segment of an exclusive interview.
You played a big role early in Shardul Thakur's career when he had taken up cricket. In fact, you had made him stay at your house so he would save time on daily travelling from Mumbai to Palghar.
When I first saw Shardul play for the first time, I spoke to his dad and assured him if he gets proper coaching he will play at the top level.
He was quite fast in his age group, in the Under-15 level in Mumbai cricket, but he didn't have someone to guide him.
I tried to convince his dad to let him shift Shardul to Mumbai from Palghar. His father was initially reluctant as Shardul was studying in the 10th standard and he believed that education was important.
I called him around 20-25 times in 2-3 months, but he was still not convinced. I believed that if Shardul moved to Mumbai and got proper coaching, he will become a top player as he could not travel daily 3 hours from Palghar to Mumbai.
Finally, he agreed and I kept Shardul at my house in Mumbai. They also felt good that I was doing so much for Shardul. He also joined a good school and you know the rest.
You also coached your son Siddhesh who played for Mumbai for many years and also featured in the IPL. How was the challenge coaching your son?
When my son turned six, I decided he would become a cricketer. As a coach, I treated every player equally whether he was my son or some other player.
The thought never crossed my mind that I should give my son more attention during the coaching sessions. But I would take him for personal coaching sessions on weekends or holidays; other than that, he never got any extra attention from me.
I always believed that no one makes someone a cricketer. A cricketer always makes his own destiny. As a coach, you can only guide them.
Similarly, with Siddhesh, he had natural talent. No one can say that whatever Siddhesh is today is because of me. He has reached where he is because of his ability and hard work.
Did you undergo any formal training in coaching?
I never underwent any training or worked under anyone to learn coaching. In 2005 I had given the Level-1 coaching exam. And can you believe it, I failed that exam. I am still shocked how I failed in that exam.
I never tried for the coaching exams after that. I played a few years for the Western Railways team, but after that I stopped playing cricket.
Suddenly one day, Diana Edulji called me and told me to coach the Western Railways team, who had a lot of players playing in the Ranji Trophy like Sanjay Bangar, Jacob Martin and Amit Pagnis.
There were other players who were Ranji Trophy regulars for Gujarat, Baroda or Railways, so it was a big thing for me that despite being a zero level coach I was getting such a big coaching assignment.
You have rued not having a proper ground to train kids despite being in coaching for so long. Do you think the Dronacharya Award will help you convince the authorities to finally grant your wish?
I don't have a ground of my own to train kids or organise matches for them. If I have to hire a private ground, then I have to pay around Rs 10,000 per match. I cannot afford that.
That is why I have been requesting the state government for the last two years. I have been doing honorary coaching for 28 years now, I don't take a single rupee from either the parents or the school.
I can easily earn around Rs 50 lakh to Rs 60 lakh per month. I only need to assure parents that their kids will go on to play in the IPL and they will readily pay me any amount, but I don't do all that because I am not into coaching to make money.
I only see the talent in a kid and promote the talent, that is the only thing I always look for.
If I get a proper ground, then I can get the kids to play more matches and give more chances to more players. I am looking for a ground around Borivli (north west Mumbai) so that young boys from nearby areas can get a chance to get some good coaching.
I have spoken to a few politicians who have been assuring me that my wish will be granted, but nothing has been so done so far.
I see some hope in Mumbai Cricket Association President Amol Kale, who has assured me full support. I also see myself playing some role in Mumbai cricket.
Do you see yourself coaching at a higher level, maybe some role in the IPL?
I don't think so. I have already received many coaching offers from the Railways. I was the selector for the Railways too, but I never thought about coaching because I enjoy working with young kids.
If the young boys get proper coaching at the right age, then they can make it big. I have a lot of experience of coaching young kids and I want to continue in that role.