The little big moment: Small town Lahli hosts Sachin Tendulkar's final Ranji game

SachinSmall town Lahli hosts Tendulkarís final Ranji Trophy game as champions Mumbai take on Haryana. (IE Photo: Ravi Kanojia)

There were two kinds of cricket fans, or rather

Sachin Tendulkar followers, in and around the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Stadium in Lalhi on the eve of the Mumbai-Haryana Ranji Trophy game. They were divided by a tall brick wall made higher by shiny coils of freshly unpacked barbed wires. The ones outside were edgy, pensive and occasionally cursed into their phones as they moaned to the world about their ticket less plight. And then there were those on the other side. They too cursed into their phones, but those curses expressed, and conveyed to the world, their disbelief over managing a Tendulkarsighting.

The `have nots' at best could see the Tendulkar silhouette in the luxury vehicle. The `haves' got a much closer view and they never left his side. A swarm of humanity moved from the gates to the dressing room behind Tendulkar's bulging official entourage - a documentary maker's team had joined a gaggle of security men and a few hangers-on. Soon it turned into a mass exodus to the training arena.

Such was the Tendulkar's magnetism that the security cordon around the nets, a linear formation guarding the fence, turned into an unregimented lump of khaki amidst which the man under the microscope batted. The policemen, in chaste Haryanvi, expressed the disappointment of all first-time celebrity watchers. "He is a great player but looks much smaller than what he seems on television." Not far away, a couple of ball boys debated whether his front-foot shot to a throwdown was a defensive push or an attacking punch.

The media, meanwhile, attempted to interpret his every muscle movement - a smile to rival skipper Ajay Jadeja's, an animated bout of small talk with Zaheer Khan, a few seam-up deliveries, an interaction with the net bowlers and a long batting session. It was business as usual for Tendulkar. For over two decades, the men around him have changed but Tendulkar's net routine hasn't. But these are special days. Even routine acts seem special.

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