Sachin Tendulkar, who as a 15-year-old struck a century on Ranji Trophy debut in December 1988, completed a near quarter century journey on a high here against Haryana on Wednesday.
Needing 39 runs on the final day, Tendulkar, 79 not out, and Dhawal Kulkarni got past the finish line without any hiccups as Mumbai, in pursuit of an unprecedented 41st title, bagged six points to begin their defense.
Tendulkar did survive a few streaky edges off Mohit Sharma that pierced the slip cordon but fed off his vast experience in tight situations. He conceded that it was an uphill task for Mumbai.
“It was a challenging wicket… as the bowlers had a lot of help on this wicket. It was a good challenge. Though we needed 240, it felt more like 280. Haryana played very good cricket, they put on a very good show. This is just the kind of outing I was looking for,” he said, soon after Amogh Pandit, Mumbai’s trainer, carried the retiring legend off the ground on his broad shoulders.
“Tendulkar was really heavy,” joked Pandit.
Tendulkar’s final assignment as a cricketer begins against West Indies next week.
“It will be a good series. They (West Indies) are a good side, something that I’ll be looking forward to. It will be my last couple of Test matches so I hope it produces good cricket and lives up to the expectations of all my well-wishers,” he said.
Zaheer Khan, the Mumbai captain, too felt that the lively track here was an ideal ground for Tendulkar to get into Test zone.
“The practice he got in this game against a disciplined Haryana attack was perfect preparation for the Tests. On whether or not I’ll be part of his farewell Tests, is not upto me. I can only bowl well and the rest is not in my hand. But as his friend and teammate, If I had to say something to him, it would be: ‘Make the most of it, enjoy these last two games.’ We’ll enjoy watching him bat.”
Though Haryana’s lively supporters were firmly behind Ajay Jadeja & Co, they gave Tendulkar a rousing ovation, prompting their player-of-the-game Joginder Sharma to say: “While they (the crowd) wanted us to win, they wanted Sachin to do well. And we too, deep down inside, wanted Sachin to play this sort of a knock, so we aren’t all that upset with the loss.”
His skipper Jadeja echoed a similar sentiments: “Ajay Jadeja, who was on the receiving end of a Tendulkar masterclass, was quick to pipe up.
“You call him god, I call him master. If you go by what you call him, then who can fight god and win?” asked Jadeja. “Till you get someone like Sachin out, there’s never any hope of victory. In a score of 240, if someone makes 79 not out, then that settles the game. I am happy that he’s finished his Ranji career on a great note. As an Indian, I hope for the same for the Test series against West Indies.”