Lahli is a dot on the otherwise over-abundant cricketing locales in India. Not many know of its existence, and as far as non-cricketing circles go, the place is shrouded in obscurity. But post the Ranji Trophy match between Haryana and Mumbai, Lahli has been transformed into a cricketing hotspot.
And Tendulkar playing his last first class match there is just one contributing half to the Lahli transformation tale. The other half involves the rise – comeback, in case of some cricketers – and outstanding performances of cricketing names that have been synonymous with the gloriousness of Indian first class cricket in recent times.
On a track that was distinctively aiding the bowlers on both ends; the collapse of both teams’ batting order in the first innings once again illuminated the sheen of the Indian bowling department at the first class level. The irony couldn’t be more obvious. The Indian cricket team still continues to plod on with no end to its ‘death-bowling’ woes even as bowling talent pours in on the first class cricketing front.
At Lahli, names kept cropping up as bowler after bowler kept on with the act of brilliance choking off batsmen allowing no room for manoeuvre. Be it Abhishek Nayar with his figures of 4/38 for Mumbai or Joginder Sharma with his emphatic response of 5/16 for Haryana in the first innings, or Mumbai’s captain Zaheer Khan’s endeavour of 4/62 in the second innings along with the other bowlers who wrapped up proceedings with timely picking of wickets; looking at each individual bowling performance, it beget the question as to how – and where – the transition of impressiveness at the domestic front ended up getting lost at the international level, reflecting mere mediocrity.
The match with its faults and excellences was then yet another testimony to the prevailing status quo of Indian cricket as a whole. In a country where cricket dominates as the fervour of sporting fans, it’s a hard fact to digest that not all cricketers get the recognition due to them at the highest of cricketing stages. And even with those who do get to make it to the zenith of the nation’s cricketing hierarchy, all it takes is one lapse of performance – read Ishant Sharma – to raze it down; possible, forever.
It’s in moments like these, that one begins to appreciate the aspects of consistency and continuity in minutiae. The 79-run knock of Tendulkar in the second innings then takes on a totally different meaning, one that goes beyond achieving a perfect end to an almost-perfect career. Alongside Tendulkar, it also lays the focus on all the other batsmen, on both sides, who wrangled their way past the determined bowling attack to get their team to a respectable total. A multitude of names makes its presence count in this as well. Names of which, not all may get the chance to display their batting skills at the national level despite waiting for years for that ‘one’ chance. Kaustabh Pawar and Ajinkya Rahane for Mumbai and Rahul Dewan, Sunny Singh and Jayant Yadav for Haryana were the peerless players aside of Tendulkar, whose batting efforts ensured that the four-day affair maintained its aura of excitement, right till the very end. And despite the odds of probability about them making it to the national squad being equal to them not potentially making it in, these names have proved their worth as cricketers, foremost, utmost convincingly.
Thanks to these shades of brilliance all-around, the clamouring for tickets that went on for an otherwise nondescript cricketing location, seemed justified at the end. Those who came to Lahli, anticipating a Tendulkar fiesta, ended up being the satisfactory recipients of a cricketing extravaganza in its entirety. The summation of proceedings also brought out positivism and revitalisation for first class cricket amidst the existing perception of starkness that clouds it. Both for Lahli and for domestic cricket, thus the Haryana-Mumbai encounter was a match that would go down in the pages of cricketing history for years to come, vouched no less by Tendulkar in his speech after receiving his last, first class Man of the Match award.