Sachin Tendulkar’s first match after his announcement of the forthcoming retirement will be against Haryana. Already, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the upcoming game at Lahli. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the previous encounters which have pitted the master against the same side and finds memorable knocks on every occasion.
The majestic bat of Sachin Tendulkar is ready to flash for the first time after announcing his forthcoming retirement from Test cricket. The match has already ignited enormous interest in the country, although the venue is the unpretentious Chaudhary Bansi Lal Stadium in the sleepy village of Lahli.
The setting may be folksy, unassuming, but the excitement surrounding the master’s appearance remains huge. Apart from the momentousness of the occasion and the frenzy surrounding the last few days of his career, there is the additional fact that every time the great willow has been wielded against these opponents, epic tales have been scripted.
In his long and sublime career, every time Tendulkar has played against Haryana he has essayed incredible knocks that have remained etched in memories. Curiously, in over a quarter century since making his debut in domestic cricket, Tendulkar has faced Haryana only three times till now. The three matches have been a First-Class outing, a List A limited overs encounter and a Twenty20 face-off, thus showcasing the multiple dimensions of his genius.
The following sections describe the previous heroics of Tendulkar against Haryana.
Haryana versus Bombay, Ranji Trophy final, 1991
Having been trapped leg-before for 47 by Chetan Sharma in the first innings, an 18-year-old Tendulkar found himself walking in to bat in the second innings in an unenviable position. The score read 34 for three in the second innings, and not many hours remained on the final day. Having conceded a first innings lead, Bombay had just one option in front of them — to defeat Haryana outright, and to do that they had to get to a towering target of 355 against a bowling that contained Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma.
At the other end stood the veteran Dilip Vengsarkar, batting with an injured leg. The score had to be pushed along and a several miracles needed to be enacted. Tendulkar sparked off quite a few. From the moment he took guard, the youthful bat started scything through the great number of required runs.
Sharma bowled quick and sharp and the bat met the ball, straight and uninhibited. Away it soared over mid-off and landed in the stands. Kapil Dev was hoisted as well, with unaffected nonchalance, and the ball landed with a thud inside the dressing room. Left-arm spinner Pradeep Jain was pulled into the depths of the Sunil Gavaskar stand. The Haryana fielders wandered helplessly, retrieving balls from beyond the boundary with increasing frequency. Vengsarkar was in the middle of one of the best knocks of his celebrated career, but as long as Tendulkar was there he was content to rotate the strike and play second fiddle.
The canny Kapil Dev did not really bother with setting the field. With his enormous experience he knew that if a batsman like Tendulkar got going, there was very little that a fielding side could do. The best option was to stick to the basics and leave the rest to luck. And ultimately it was a stroke of luck that undid the magical spell cast on the stadium. Nine fours and five sixes thundered from the young lad’s bat as he raced to 96 from 75 balls, in days much before such belligerence was considered within the realms of possibility. With Vengsarkar at the other end, the 96 had come out a 134-run partnership that hauled Bombay right back into the game. He finally perished in heart-breaking manner, hitting a full toss from off-spinner Joginder Bhandari into the hands of cover.
Vengsarkar, batting for much of the innings with a runner, went on to score an unbeaten 139, but a misunderstanding with the No 11 batsman, Abey Kuruvilla, resulted in a run-out in the final stages and Bombay lost by the wafer thin margin of two runs. As the Haryana players celebrated on the field, Vengsarkar broke down in tears and cried unabashedly.
Haryana versus Bombay, Wills Trophy final, 1994
An 80-run unbroken partnership at the end of the innings between Pankaj Thakur and Ritesh Manchanda set a challenging target of 264 in front of Mumbai in the Wills Trophy final at Chepauk. And given that the Haryana attack was spearheaded by Kapil Dev, things were not going to be easy. Or so one thought. It had to be borne in mind that the ground was one of Sachin Tendulkar’s favourites.
The master, who had sent down eight economical overs for a wicket, came out hitting the ball to all parts of the ground, putting on 202 with opening partner Sanjay Manjrekar. He finally fell for 116, but by then Haryana was a shell-shocked, demoralised unit. Manjrekar and Vinod Kambli got the remaining runs without fuss and Bombay triumphed by nine wickets.
Harayana versus Mumbai Interstate Twenty20 2006-07 Second Stage Group B
And then it was the remaining format of the game in which Tendulkar’s bat pulverised Haryana.
At the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, a five-wicket haul by Iqbal Abdulla restricted Haryana to 125. In response, Tendulkar raced to 69 from 40 balls against an attack boasting Joginder Sharma and Amit Mishra. He was bowled by Mishra after putting on exactly 100 for the first wicket with Aninkya Rahane, but by then the match had ceased to be a contest. Mumbai won by eight wickets.
Magic in the offing?
As Mumbai prepare to take on Haryana yet again, one waits to see whether a final trick is produced by the wand like willow, which has performed magic across all these years.
Since the 1991 match at the Wankhede Stadium, Tendulkar has never played Haryana in the Ranji Trophy. The two-run defeat remains one of the most painful in the history of Mumbai cricket, and there is no doubt that it still irks the champion. It remains to be seen if he has the satisfaction of taking his side to a win this time, 22 years after that fateful final.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)