Lahli (Haryana), Oct 25 (IANS) Ranji Trophy matches are not known to attract huge crowds but one particular match in a relatively unknown stadium in this village in Haryana's Rohtak district is not only drawing unprecedented attention but also cricket lovers queuing up to be part of the four-day cricketing action.
As the teams from Mumbai and Haryana clash at the relatively new Chaudhary Bansi Lal cricket stadium at Lahli village, 10 km from Rohtak (80 km from New Delhi), starting Sunday (Oct 27), the main attraction for people will be the presence of batting legend Sachin Tendulkar.
The occasion seems important if the whispers in and around the ground are to be believed -- that this could be Tendulkar's last appearance in national-level domestic match before he plays his 200th and last test match against the West Indies at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium next month.
To see the batting maestro play here, hundreds of enthusiasts -- from common villagers, youth, cricket lovers to influential people -- everyone is clamouring for tickets for this match.
The stadium, where the first Ranji match was played November 2006 and has witnessed 24 matches so far and has a capacity of only 8,000 seats. Out of these, the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) has blocked over 2,500 seats near the pavilion side for "security reasons".
"This leaves just over 5,000 seats for the public. The HCA officials and others having influence in the district have already cornered the tickets. People who were asked to get themselves registered for free tickets are unable to get them now," rued cricket-lover Rakesh Kumar of Lahli village.
"We have blocked some seats for security reasons. They players (from both sides) will enter from this area," HCA secretary Anirudh Chaudhary, who was supervising last-minute arrangements, told IANS
Located along the Rohtak-Bhiwani highway, the excitement for watching Tendulkar play for the last time here is peaking around the stadium.
Apart from the ticket seekers, security agencies and district authorities are present in and around the stadium to make preparations for the all-important match featuring Tendulkar. Up to 600 security personnel will be deployed in and around the stadium.
"We are providing adequate security for the entire match," superintendent of police Vikas Dhankar said.
Villagers in Lahli said that they were excited that Tendulkar would come and play here.
"It is a great occasion for this village which is not well known otherwise. Old and young, everyone is excited about Tendulkar," village elder Hawa Singh told IANS.
To make Tendulkar's stay on the pitch comfortable, curator Jasmer Singh said that the pitch was being rolled.
"We want him (Tendulkar) to play a memorable innings here. We are trying to make a pitch of international standard that lasts the entire duration of the match," Jasmer Singh said.
Since Rohtak town does not have any five-star hotel, Tendulkar and his teammates are likely to stay at a government tourism resort or one of the local hotels. The teams will arrive Friday evening.