At 7.30am on Wednesday, Dhawal Kulkarni was getting ready to leave for the ground where Sachin Tendulkar would bid goodbye to him and his Mumbai teammates in a matter of hours. There wasn't much chitchat at the breakfast table. Mumbai knew the equation and how to get there.
the time, Dhawal, unbeaten at stumps on Tuesday alongside Tendulkar, wasn't thinking only about getting past the line, or even giving the talisman a fitting sendoff. He wanted to be a part of history.
"Sachin is considered one of Mumbai's greatest-ever cricketers, if not the greatest. So I just wanted to be the last man to be out there with him. I wanted to be with him. Nothing else mattered. And no matter what happens going forward, this will remain my most memorable moment," he told HT.
Dhawal is yet to play for India. And if he were to finish without ever winning an India cap, he knows that his finest moment has already come.
"I know I am part of history now, and that's why this will go down as my finest innings ever, even better than Mysore (when he hit a hundred in the Ranji final)."
When Mumbai were just eight shy of victory, Dhawal got struck on the grill of his helmet by a brutal Mohit Sharma bouncer, making Tendulkar to sprint racross to him.
"He just told me to breathe and watch the next ball. There was absolutely nothing on my mind (when I got hit)," said Dhawal, who after hitting the winning boundary finished with 16 runs from 72 balls – testament to his temperament.
Better late than never
Tendulkar played just one Ranji tie between 2000 and 2007, and very few after that. But his presence in last season's knockout stages has given youngsters such as Dhawal a chance to bond with him.
"Since he was always busy playing for the country, many of us never got to know him on a personal level. Many of us didn't know what he was truly about. But all that has changed now. He shared so many of his experiences with us, made an effort to help us. And that's why when we lifted him on our shoulders it was a natural emotion."
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