Sachin Tendulkar began his very last day in the Ranji Trophy with three sure-footed shots. He drove Harshal Patel through cover for a couple on the first ball he faced today. The next delivery was shaping away but he turned it neatly to square-leg for another couple. The over ended with a firm push past the reach of mid-on allowing Tendulkar and Dhawal Kulkarni to collect three.
The master had begun with the sort of certitude and focus that lets you know he will finish off the job for his team. That’s exactly what he did. He and Kulkarni batted slowly but steadily to the target of 240.
The game finished with Kulkarni punching Mohit Sharma down the ground for four. Kulkarni was born on December 10, 1988. It was the same day Tendulkar made his Ranji Trophy debut with a hundred against Gujarat. It was a nice bit of trivia to tie together two seismic moments in Indian cricket.
The crowd started filing in early in the Bansi Lal Stadium in Lahli, Rohtak. They wanted their last glimpse of the greatest cricketer of their generation. Mumbai were 39 away from a hard-earned win, but getting those runs was far from easy.
The wintry weather and green wicket had seen the first 20 wickets fall for just 270 runs. Haryana’s lead pacers Harshal Patel and Mohit Sharma were cutting and swinging the ball at sharp speeds. There was plenty of awkward bounce as well. But these did not deter Tendulkar and Kulkarni.
Three times today, Tendulkar was struck on the pads by Patel. One LBW shout was fairly close. This was followed by Patel hitting Tendulkar just above the groin. That ball had cut in sharply from a flick-able length.
Tendulkar hasn’t been hit too many times in his long career of 25 years. He paused for breath and adjusted his gear. If he was in pain, he didn’t show it. He took strike again. The next ball was only marginally short and wide. But Tendulkar attacked it with hand movements so quick, the ball was ribboned through point. You could sense his feeling of indignation at being hit. It was the only forceful shot of a largely circumspect innings. Patel, who had toiled manfully till then, didn’t have a comeback.
Tendulkar had arrived plundering one bowler after another. He leaves the scene with a watchful innings and a bruise or two, but also with the satisfaction of seeing a job through. His countless fans would expect no less when he takes on the West Indies one last time in the upcoming series.
Brief Scores: Haryana 134 & 241 lose to Mumbai 136 & 240-6 [S Tendulkar 79*, KR Pawar 47, A Rahane 40, A Nayar 24, D Kulkarni 16*; M Sharma 2-79] by four wickets.
NOTE—The 199 games for India include the unofficial Test match against South Africa at Centurion, November 23-27, 2001. The game that India lost was not awarded Test status but was deemed First Class after a dispute between the ICC, the BCCI and UCBSA over the events surrounding match referee Mike Denness in the previous game. Tendulkar made 27 and 40 in this game.