Sachin Tendulkar’s match-winning solo in Lahli was a fitting finale to his Ranji Trophy career. When the winning shot was hit, Tendulkar raised his arms while his mates gave a hero-like welcome back to the pavilion. Sarang Bhalerao caught up with Mumbai opener Kaustubh Pawar and cricket performance analyst Saurabh Walkar to talk about Sachin Tendulkar.
The little-known small town of Lahli is now part of cricket history having hosted Sachin Tendulkar’s final Ranji Trophy game. The Little Master walked away from the venue as a match-winning hero, but Mumbai had a few anxious moments en route to a win over Haryana. Tendulkar, the calming influence, took the onus and pressure upon himself to script a memorable win.
Kaustubh Pawar, the Mumbai opener, was not born when Tendulkar made his Ranji Trophy debut. By the time Pawar was born in September 1990, Tendulkar had already scored a memorable Test century against England at Old Trafford. Ask Pawar about his experience of sharing the dressing room with Tendulkar and he says, “It’s an honour to be part of the team that has Sachin in it. He [Tendulkar] always talks about the mental aspect of the game — how to pace the innings, which bowlers to attack and how to get the runs on challenging wickets.”
Pawar scored 47 in the second innings. He was in the middle when Tendulkar got a salute from the Haryana team in the second innings. “That was truly amazing,” says Pawar. “The time when he joined me in the middle, Tendulkar told me to continue batting well.”
By the end of the third day the equation had come down to 39 runs for Mumbai and four wickets for the hosts. Saurabh Walkar, the video analyst, says: “The atmosphere in the dressing room was tense, but Tendulkar presence in the middle was reassuring.”
After the third day’s play, Walkar went out for dinner with Tendulkar, Abhishek Nayar and Ajinkya Rahane. “There was absolutely no discussion about the game. Sachin was narrating timeless tales about his childhood. He then talked about his early days in cricket. The anecdotes were very interesting and it feels wonderful when you hear them from Sachin.”
The final day would have been emotional for the team as it was the last time Tendulkar was going to bat for Mumbai. Walkar says: “Tendulkar made it clear that we have a match to win and getting six points would be our priority.”
He was batting with a lot of purpose on the final day. Says Walkar: “I was talking to Wasim [Jaffer] in the dressing room and said these moments are special. We are lucky to watch such a cricketer and his final few moments. Wasim agreed with me.”
Tendulkar’s running between the wicket was very purposeful. “The two runs that he took off Harshal Patel after flicking him past square-leg reminded me of Sachin of the 1990s. I felt he could still play for a few years. He is very fit,” Walkar says.
“We wanted Tendulkar to be in the middle when Mumbai would win and that’s what happened. We ran out and congratulated him, hugged him. That was special,” says Walkar.
Pawar says: “We wanted to win the final game for Sachin and we did it. We had not planned anything after the win but the instincts took over and we just ran out on to the field after the win. It was indeed quite memorable.”
At the end of the second day there was a surprise farewell cake for Tendulkar organised by Mumbai treasurer Nitin Dalal. “Tendulkar was overwhelmed by that gesture,” recalls Walkar.
“The small function went on for half an hour where the teammates talked about their experiences with Sachin. In the end Sachin thanked the team and talked about how hard-work is the only way to succeed in whatever one does in life. Everyone was gripped by his talk.”
There was one incident that highlights Tendulkar’s modesty. Walkar says: “A waiter in the stadium clicked a snap of Sachin by hiding from somewhere. When Sachin came to know about it he asked the waiter to immediately delete the photo. The waiter felt that he was in trouble. He deleted the photo immediately. ‘Why don’t you take a photo with me?’ The smile on the face of the waiter was priceless. That’s what Sachin is — absolutely modest and caring.”
Walkar says: “Sachin’s dedication is amazing. When we have a team practice at 9.00 am, he is there on the ground since 7.30 am and he does some running and knocking then joins the team mid-way. He has never missed a single practice day for Mumbai and has never ever been late.”
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)