Dinesh Lad is a Mumbai cricket tragic. He played for Western Railways, went straight into coaching at the school level, was impressed with an opposition offspinner, approached him and took him under his wing. That offspinner has now scored three ODI double hundreds. Apart from Rohit Sharma, Lad has given India Shardul Thakur. Lad still coaches on at school level, at his academy, wherever. Sometimes he sponsors kids, often giving shelter to young cricketers in need. A student of the great Ramakant Achrekar, he is carrying the legacy.
Lad is sitting in the stand at Karnail Singh Stadium, quietly observing play from square on, right under a new electronic scoreboard. He has been employed once again by Indian Railways to be an observer for their side, which finished at the bottom in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year. It is easy to strike up a conversation about cricket. Soon the Karnail Singh Stadium curator, Rakesh Mehrotra, joins in.
At around 11.40am, Railways take the third Mumbai wicket, leaving them in a precarious position at 98 for 3, but about now Lad loses some of that relaxed air about him. Lad's son, Siddhesh, has walked out to bat. For Mumbai. Father and son, on opposite sides.
Although the Lads could afford better, Siddhesh said his father made him travel by local train to make him tough and disciplined. He has earned a reputation now for scoring tough runs if not big runs for Mumbai. He has scored six hundreds in 42 games. They are not big ones - 150 is his highest. They are not scored at a strike rate that grabs your attention, like his team-mate Shreyas Iyer's do. But his runs are valued in the dressing room. As they are in this innings. He starts off slowly in the company of Suryakumar Yadav, who survives a couple of early chances. Lad doesn't offer chances, his scoring rate gradually picks up, he takes Mumbai to safety and ends the day unbeaten on 80.
On the next morning, Dinesh is seated in his stand again, hoping possibly for a hundred but not much more. On 99, Siddhesh gets an overpitched delivery, and, on a pitch that hasn't offered much turn, plays for the straighter one. He is bowled by the first delivery that has really turned. Dinesh has mixed emotions. By the end of the day, Mumbai are firmly in a dominant position, having taken six Railways wickets for just 115, a lead still of 296 runs.
When Siddhesh comes out to talk to journalists, Lad senior is giving pep talk to the Railways players in the background. He is happy his father could make the trip because he rarely comes to watch him. Even if it means the trip is part of a job, and that job is to work for the side that is his opposition. "I wanted to make this trip worth it for him," he says. 'Hopefully I have shown how my first-class game is. I am happy about that.
"I haven't been talking to him during this game. Just hi-hello. He is on the opposite side, so there is no point talking too much. Now I will ask him if he wants to come for dinner this evening."
Father and son will be on the same side this evening.