Sachin Tendulkar’s performances in domestic first class competition have been monumental.
The Bombay and Mumbai teams benefited substantially from his broad blade. He demonstrated a fierce loyalty to his home team and felt obliged to make big contributions. Right from his Ranji debut against Gujarat in the winter of 1988 he has shown a remarkable appetite to amass runs.
On the back of some heavyweight performances for junior teams he made the cut as a raw 15-year-old. The absence of any dissent from the discerning in the famous maidans was understandable. They were not surprised by the selectors’ bold decision to blood a schoolboy, but only curious to know how he would deal with the Gujarat attack.
Bombay boasted a solid opening pair in Lalchand Rajput and Shishir Hattangadi followed by a reliable left-hander Allan Sippy at No. 3. Nowhere had Tendulkar’s name figured in the Gujarat first innings scoresheet and the greenhorn was probably restless in the dressing room with Rajput and Sippy doing brisk business in the middle at the Wankhede stadium.
But once in the middle the budding talent prospered and showed the first hints of becoming a colossus, dissecting each and every bowler with precision and power on his way to a ruthless unbeaten century.
Tendulkar had made the big impact. No force could stop the determined youth in pursuit of excellence and keen to take the cricket world by storm. He proceeded to make 58 and 89 against Saurashtra, 81 against Maharashtra, 59 against Hyderabad’s Arshad Ayub and Venkatapathy Raju on a rank turner at Secunderabad, 75 against Uttar Pradesh and 78 in a losing cause against Delhi in the semifinal.
A true champion in the making Tendulkar missed the title match in his debut season. Two years later the stage was set for him to take on the might of Kapil Dev & Co at the Wankhede. In a star-studded batting side, Tendulkar got his chance after Rajput, Hattangadi, Sandeep Patil, Sanjay Manjrekar and Dilip Vengsarkar. He made 47 in the first innings, and took on Kapil in the course of a lively 96 that was most memorable for a parallel off-driven six off the Haryana veteran. Mumbai lost the match by two runs.
He played four league matches for Bombay in the 1993-94 season, but stole the thunder in the following season scoring five centuries in as many matches, including a 140 and 139 in the final against Punjab.
As captain he lifted the Ranji Trophy for the first time in the 1994-95 season. He was part of three more Ranji Trophy-winning Mumbai teams in 1999-2000, 2008-09 and 2012-13. “Last year was a bonus; he (Tendulkar) played three knockout matches,’’ said skipper Ajit Agarkar.
On Wednesday, Tendulkar played his last Ranji game after 38 matches, took his team past the finishing line against Haryana at Lahli with a very impressive average around 90. He was equally successful for West Zone for which he scored a Duleep Trophy century (159) on debut against East Zone in January 1991.
He also made his Irani Cup debut memorable with a second innings century (103) against Delhi in November 1989.
Tendulkar’s achievements form a glittering chapter in India’s domestic events.