Nostalgia — not just the virus — is in the air, with sporting world literally coming to a standstill. Even without a lockdown, cricketing fraternity would have celebrated the 20th anniversary of an epic in the Ranji Trophy history.
On Sachin Tendulkar’s request, the semifinal between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu was postponed to let him be available after representing Asia XI in Dhaka. And he helped Mumbai chase down a mammoth first innings total of 485 in a nail-biting game at the Wankhede Stadium.
Hemang Badani, who starred for TN, and Ajit Agarkar, who had match-figures of six for 120 and shared a vital 37-run partnership with Tendulkar in a nervy chase, recall the game.
It was my first Ranji semifinal. I was nervous but excited since playing Mumbai in Mumbai is always special. It was a full-strength Mumbai side and we had a big total on the board after being asked to bat on a lively pitch.
Then on, it was all about Sachin’s magnificence. I remember we had close to six or seven men on the boundary line and he still found a way to find the fence regularly. It was impossible to believe we lost to one man.
It was remarkable to see his intensity on the field. I have never seen an international cricketer show such passion for his State side.
After the match, it was sweet of him to speak with me. He spoke about my flow, bat swing and asked not to change the way I played. It was a very tough loss for us and took some time to come out of it.
The only silver-lining for me was the way I batted when it mattered. A month later, I made my debut for India and I am sure this knock played a huge role in that.
Without trying to sound cocky, the Mumbai team felt pretty comfortable in the era that I played. We did lose games but seldom were we nervous. So nervous were most of us during that game that I didn’t watch the run-chase at all. I remember Ramesh (Powar) and I were glued to our seats inside the dressing room and stepped out only to applaud a milestone — majority of them were by Sachin. I think Amol (Muzumdar) was also sitting with us right through, so yes, I hardly watched the great knock.
It was a stellar performance by both sides. Badani scored a good hundred, Robin scored a gritty century. But the chase was really anxious. Sachin batted almost right through the innings but despite Vinod (Kambli) and Amol giving him support, we always knew chasing down almost 500 was going to be a challenge.
And Sachin rose to the occasion. One could sense during our partnership how badly he wanted it.
No wonder he was so pumped up after crossing the line with a six. Never have I seen him so pumped up in a domestic game during my career.