Mumbai’s 500th Ranji Trophy match did not go according to plan. They played second fiddle to Baroda for most parts. However, it was in the midst of this doom that the team’s character shone through thanks largely to a gritty knock by lower-order batsman Siddhesh Lad.

The 25-year-old showed off the 41-time champions’ ‘khadoos’ attitude, salvaging a draw for a side that was headed straight for defeat. Lad’s unbeaten 71 on the final day of the game, gave Mumbai something to cheer about in what was otherwise a wretched encounter for the hosts.

The short-statured batsman was at the crease for just over five hours and faced 238 deliveries. Known for his obdurate style, Lad showcased all the wares of his defensive armoury as Mumbai batted out the day to escape defeat in the landmark match.

“To be struggling in our 500th game, was a scenario that had brought down the morale of the entire team,” Lad told TheField. “We were desperate for a draw. That was all there was in my mind. ‘Have to save the game,’ I kept telling myself during our effort on the last day.”

The salvage operation fell to Lad after the team’s bevy of stars fell one after the other in the second essay. His crucial partnerships with Suryakumar Yadav, Abhishek Nayar and later with Dhawal Kulkarni proved invaluable.

He led the way as Mumbai brought down its shields in a bid to bat out the game. The knock encapsulated the young batsman’s career which has so far been spent in the shadows.

This season has followed a similar script. With Prithvi Shaw’s big knocks hogging much of the limelight. Lad, though, has quietly made his mark with a century and two half-tons so far, that have all come when the team needed him to deliver.

Injury concerns

“Over the years, I have realised that I thrive under pressure. Batting regularly at No 6-7, I have found myself in similar situations many times,” Lad said.

“Obviously this time the pressure was higher as it was a landmark game. But, the desire to end well was what drove all of us strive on,” he added.

Injury, though, has been a constant through Lad’s fledgling career. Lad has a perennial back problem after being diagnosed with a ‘slip-disc’ three years ago.

In a bid to keep the eventuality of an injury at bay, Lad has to take extra measures while training.

“It is a perennial problem for me. The risk of injury in my case is higher than others because of my condition,” Lad said. “While, it is an inconvenience for me, it isn’t a hurdle I would say. In fact, the injury has helped me bring a discipline into my fitness regime.

“Since last season I have worked heavily on my fitness. I worked hard with Mumbai Indians fitness trainer Paul Chapman while with the team during the last Indian Premier League season,” he added.

“The results are showing and have helped me stay sharp on the field and improve my powers of concentration while batting.”

India dream

The renewed vigour seems to have helped the batsman hit the ground this season. His latest effort was preceded by a century against Odisha. Both knocks came in fighting causes as the top-order crumbled. The 117 proved crucial for Mumbai and laid the foundation for Mumbai first win of the season. His 82-run knock against Tamil Nadu before that showed his versatility, as it came while he batted at No 3, with top-order regular Shreyas Iyer away on national duty.

Lad has been a Mumbai regular since 2013. In a team studded with stars, Lad has been striving to make his mark and push through towards achieving his dream of playing international cricket.

A mainstay of Mumbai’s lower-order, Lad usually bats at No 6 or 7. Despite the lack of time in the middle, Lad is confident of shining through.

“Given a chance, I would definitely want to bat up the order. It will definitely give me more time to express myself. But, I want to be more of a team man,” he said.

The India dream is still alive and kicking in his mind. Lad is hoping the string of good performances lead to an India A call-up where he can further showcase his skills to further his national team aspirations.

“It is a dream to play for India. That is the motivation that drives one to go through hours of practice and training,” he said.

“What really counts is delivering for the team in crunch situations. All a cricketer hopes for is a big season. Focus is now on finishing on a positive note me as well as the team,” he added.