Wedding like atmosphere in Haryana village as Tendulkar pads up

Lahli (Haryana), Oct 26 (IANS) It was a wedding like atmosphere in Haryana's nondescript village of Lahli Saturday as batting legend Sachin Tendulkar prepared to play his final domestic match.

All roads seemed to be leading to the Chaudhary Bansi Lal cricket stadium located on the Rohtak-Bhiwani highway. Scores of cricket fans, residents of Lahli and nearby villages and many others headed towards the stadium to have a look at India's batting sensation.

Tendulkar, who practiced at the stadium Saturday amid tight security, will play for Mumbai in a four-day Ranji Trophy match against hosts Haryana.

The match begins Sunday.

He arrived at the stadium in a white BMW and practiced till afternoon.

"No match has attracted so much attention here as this one has. It seems that everyone just wants to see Tendulkar in action here. In all previous Ranji matches played here, the stands have largely been empty," an official of the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) told IANS.

With the stadium having a limited capacity of just 8,000 seats out of which nearly 2,600 have been blocked by the HCA for "security reasons", many people are upset that they will miss the match.

"Earlier, they (HCA) said that village residents will get tickets. Most people are still without tickets. I don't know where the tickets have vanished," Lahli resident Bahadur Singh said.

Village residents threatened that they would protest at the stadium if they were not allowed in.

"Residents of Lahli have the first claim to see Sachin playing. Why have the tickets been sent to other districts?" questioned cricket enthusiast Manoj Kumar.

Keeping in mind the rising tempers, the Haryana police is taking no chances. Over 600 policemen have been deployed in and around the stadium since Saturday. Through the day, senior police officers could be seen giving instructions to their personnel on security arrangements.

With the rising excitement, many VIPs are expected to visit the venue during the match. Much of the hype is because this could be Tendulkar's last appearance in a domestic national level match as he has announced that he will retire from international test cricket next month after playing his 200th test match in Mumbai's Wankhede stadium against the West Indies.

Tendulkar, who is staying at the Haryana irrigation department's Canal Rest House in Rohtak town, 70 km from Delhi, will be playing the match under the captaincy of Zaheer Khan.

Former India team member Ajay Jadeja, who is the captain and coach of the Haryana side, will also be seen in action here.

This will be the 25th Ranji match to be played in the stadium here.

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