Rohtak is all excited about Sachin Tendulkar’s appearance in a Ranji Trophy match

Rustic and vigorous, Rohtak is bubbling these days as this Haryana town, 60 kilometres from Delhi, gears up to host a legend on his final leg of a glorious cricket journey. The administration is geared up to make it a memorable experience not just for Sachin Tendulkar but the cricket loving public which has been flocking the venue, the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium, in hordes daily.

“The excitement is unprecedented. We have hosted many stars in the past but this is something special. A legend is coming to town and we consider ourselves lucky to have received such a privilege,” observes Ranbir Singh Mahindra, a former Board president.

Haryana takes pride in its sports policies, encouraging youngsters in various disciplines. Cricket, a national obsession, has deep roots in Rohtak, which produced a stalwart like Rajinder Goel. He continues to be the face of cricket in this part of the State even though he stopped playing active cricket in 1985.

True, the town does not boast of luxury hotels but as an old cricket follower says, “We have a place for the cricketers in our heart.” The hospitality claim has been experienced by players over the years, from the time Sunil Gavaskar brought his Bombay team to play a Ranji Trophy semi-final at the Maharaja Aggarsain Stadium in 1980.

Rohtak has made steady progress from the dusty town it was. Malls and multiplex complexes have sprung up and add to the growing reputation of the local populace adapting to the modernisation process. The stadium in Lahli, a village on the outskirts of Rohtak, is a compact structure housed in a 13-acre complex with decent accommodation for the players.

The clamour for tickets has led the organisers to turn the stadium into a fortress.

“Security and smooth conduct is the priority,” says an official. The venue has hosted stars like Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly and is ready to give the spectators value for its money at the Mumbai-Haryana contest to be held from November 27 to 30.

Banners and posters announce the event. Enterprising locals are cashing in on the occasion. There is a rush to grab vantage spots and set up stalls, food and merchandise to document the event. Local cricketers have become the most sought-after citizens, flooded by requests for complimentary tickets. There is curiosity and of course there is excitement as office-goers and students pull strings to wrangle an entrance avenue to the stadium that can seat 8000.

For Goel Saab, Aman Kumar, Ashwani Kumar, Nitin Goel, Rajesh Bawa, Jitendra Singh, all first-class cricketers from Rohtak, it will be one of the finest moments when Tendulkar walks out to bat at Lahli. They would be among the audience to savour the moment Rohtak has waited for long.

It is interesting to note that the legendary Kapil Dev had made his first-class debut at the Vishkarma High School ground in Rohtak in 1975, claiming six and two wickets in each innings and batting at No 11 in a match that Haryana won by an innings.

Thirty eight years later, at a ground 15 kilometres away, Tendulkar is set to play his last Ranji Trophy match.