The cheers among the few hundred spectators when Railways’ Amit Paunikar ran out Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma for 18 provided enough indication of the anticipation level at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday.
Clearly, they had come to see Sachin Tendulkar bat. Nothing else mattered, it seemed. The batting maestro went on to get a hundred and all that work which went into preparing for this Ranji Trophy opener paid off.
Young batting star Ajinkya Rahane, who shared a 200-run stand with Tendulkar for the fourth wicket, helped Mumbai dominate with a Day One score of 344 for four. Armed with 100 international centuries, Tendulkar is more than used to carving out three-figure knocks. But this one will stick in memory because apart from the sheer mastery over the Railways attack, it was his first three-figure knock since January 2011.
After getting his feet movement right, Tendulkar sent the opposition on a leather hunt. He was particularly harsh on left-arm spinner Ashish Yadav, who was hit for 21 runs in an over which included two sixes and a four. In all, Tendulkar had 21 hits to the fence and cleared the ropes thrice during his 136-ball stay in the middle.
Rahane, who came in at one-drop, was rock solid at the other end as Tendulkar nailed the toothless Railway attack. At tea, Rahane was batting on 75 while Tendulkar was on 40, but the batting genius got to the three-figure mark before Rahane. Rahane stressed on Tendulkar’s role: “Sachin motivated me all through. He asked me to play safe as he wanted to go after the bowlers and I just followed his instructions.”
With the Test series against England less than a fortnight away, Rahane has got his timing right. “I did what I had to. I am open to batting at any position and so coming in at No three or four doesn’t matter,” he said. Asked to comment on Railways’ bowlers, Rahane said: “They were neither good nor bad, but for batsmen, it’s a one-ball game and so I had to be cautious all through.” Tendulkar was eventually done in by a rising Anureet Singh delivery, trying an upper-cut which went straight to debutant Parag Madkaikar at second slip.