The scrutiny is intense. He has left the hotel, has entered the stadium, has gone to the ‘nets’, is batting, is resting in the dressing room, has finished lunch, is back in the dressing room, has left the stadium… It is hardly about a Ranji Trophy contest between Haryana and Mumbai. It is just Sachin Tendulkar. And nothing else!

The paddy fields around the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Stadium add to the rustic tranquillity which is broken by a passing truck or the siren of a security vehicle.

Crowds swell at the entrance even as word, running commentary rather, spreads of Tendulkar’s arrival at the venue.

Some of the Haryana players are also in awe of their legendary opponent, so also some of his Mumbai colleagues.

Tendulkar, having gauged the situation, advises his team to concentrate on the match. The Haryana skipper Ajay Jadeja, once his deputy in the Indian team, goads his bowlers to make it memorable by snaring one of the greatest batsmen in the game.

“Imagine the inspiration Sachin’s wicket will give the bowler,” he remarks. There is nostalgia when the two meet, but Tendulkar has some unfinished business ahead of the last two Tests of his career.

Time has flown but has been documented in golden terms as far as his love for the game is concerned. This will be only his second Ranji match against Haryana, which is happy to play second fiddle, happy to be part of history that Tendulkar makes every time he steps on the field. The countdown to his farewell begins on Sunday.

The teams: Mumbai: Zaheer Khan (Capt), Abhishek Nayar, Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Kautab Pawar, Hiken Shah, Aditya Tare, Dhawal Kulkarni, Iqbal Abdulla, Vishal Dabholkar, Sufiyan Shaikh, Siddhesh Lad, Javed Khan, Balwinder Sandhu (Junior).

Haryana: Ajay Jadeja (Capt), Rahul Dewan, Abhimanyu Khod, Sunny Singh, Nitin Saini, Sachin Rana, Rahul Dalal, Joginder Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Ashish Hooda, Mohit Sharma, Sanjay Badhwar, Sandeep Singh and Avi Barot.

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