They came in hundreds to see him play live. Many of them knew that he would not be playing here again. They sat through the first half of the day seeing him field for Mumbai. They waited eagerly to see him do what he does best -- batting. But when cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar got out cheaply, the whole stadium virtually abandoned the match.
This was the scene on the first day of the four-day Ranji Trophy match between Tendulkar's Mumbai side and hosts Haryana at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal cricket stadium in Lahli village, 15 km from Haryana's Rohtak town.
With Mumbai fielding first -- and Tendulkar on the field, the nearly capacity crowd sat patiently in the stands. And as Haryana were bowled out for a paltry 134 runs in the afternoon session, the excitement of the crowd to see Tendulkar bat only grew.
Tendulkar started well by hitting his trademark straight drive for four runs. However, his stay at the crease was short -- seven balls to be exact -- as Haryana medium pacer Mohit Sharma cut short the aspirations of the Tendulkar fans to see him bat longer. A Sharma delivery seemed to deviate from Tendulkar's elbow and hit the wickets.
As Tendulkar returned to the pavilion, the crowds seemed to be in even a greater hurry to leave the stadium. For the fans, who did everything to secure the free passes for the match and turned up in their hundreds to fill over 5,000 available seats in the stadium, the match was over for the day as soon as Tendulkar got out.
“We came to see his (Tendulkar's) batting. However, he got out early. We were disappointed. We would like to see him score a century in the second innings,” Lahli resident Ashish Kumar said.
After Tendulkar's exit, the stadium saw more policemen in uniform around the stands than spectators.
Earlier in the day, members of both teams, including Tendulkar's former teammate Ajay Jadeja, who is now the captain-cum-coach of the Haryana side, lined up in the ground as he stepped out on the field. The gesture was done as this is perhaps Tendulkar's last appearance in a national-level domestic match.
During lunch time, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who comes from Rohtak town, came to the stadium to present Tendulkar a memento.
“I am very happy to get an opportunity to watch live the last Ranji Trophy match played by Tendulkar at Lahli. People from across the country have reached Rohtak to watch this match. He (Tendulkar) is an inspiration for the youth of this country,” a visibly happy Hooda said.
This is the 25th Ranji Trophy match being played in the stadium in Lahli.
“No match has attracted so much attention earlier as this one. Tendulkar is the sole factor for that,” a Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) official said.