Lahli: It will be a precursor to the final bow as the retiring Sachin Tendulkar pads up one last time for Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy match against Haryana amid heightened excitement that has turned this sleepy village of wrestlers into a cricket-crazy arena.
The defending champions' match against the hosts assumes significance as this will be the champion batsman's final competitive outing ahead of next month's Test series against the West Indies, which will culminate with the second game in Mumbai, where Tendulkar will bring the curtain down on a glorious 24-year tryst with international cricket.
Tendulkar had, earlier this month, announced that he would call it a day after playing in his landmark 200th Test, against the West Indies from November 14-18.
Incidentally, in a Ranji final against Haryana in 1991, an 18-year-old Tendulkar bludgeoned his way to a smashing knock and threatened to take the game away from Kapil Dev's side.
Twenty-two years later, Tendulkar, now 40, is the lone surviving member of either team that played the five-day final at the Wankhede Stadium.
Cut to October, 2013, locals here are as geared up as the players themselves to be part of the match, scheduled to take place at the Chaudhury Bansi Lal Stadium in Lahli, around 15km from Rohtak.
Tendulkar had trained with the team for the last four days at the Wankhede Stadium and was learnt to be in great shape.
Normally a quiet town, the place went into a state of frenzy after it emerged that Tendulkar would be playing here to warm up for the two Test matches in Kolkata and at his beloved home ground at the Wankhede.
The match will also be a 'reunion' of sorts as Tendulkar will play against former Team India opener Ajay Jadeja.
The 42-year-old Jadeja is making a domestic comeback for Haryana, and had led the state side to the Buchi Babu title earlier this year.
Tendulkar has played 37 Ranji matches for Mumbai after making his debut against Gujarat in December 1988. His last Ranji appearance was the final at the Wankhede Stadium against Saurashtra in January this year.
Last season also, Tendulkar had turned up for Mumbai before playing the Test series against England at home.
Coming back to tomorrow's match, it will see quite a few top stars including Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Ajinkya Rahane, to name a few, turning out for Mumbai.
Seeking to make a comeback to the Indian team, Zaheer recently underwent intensive training sessions in France and South Africa, and was reported to have given fitness tips to Rahane during the team's last training session at the Wankhede.
The opportunity to watch Tendulkar bat from close quarters knocking on their door, locals here are excited and the mad rush for tickets can be attributed to that.
In-form Rohit Sharma, who was named captain of Mumbai for the Ranji season, will not be available for the match as he is doing national duty in the ongoing One-day series against Australia.
Zaheer will be leading the side in Rohit's absence.
Mumbai: Zaheer Khan (Capt.), Abhishek Nayar (vice-Capt.), Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Dhaval Kulkarni, Iqbal Abdullah, Vishal Dabholkar, Sufiyan Shaikh, Kaustubh Pawar, Siddhesh Lad, Javed Khan, Hiken Shah, Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Jr), Aditya Tare.
Haryana: Ajay Jadeja (Capt./coach), Avi Barot, Sanjay Budhwar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Dalal, Rahul Dewan, Ashish Hooda, Joginder Sharma, Abhimanyu Khod, Harshal Patel, Sachin Rana, Nitin Saini, Sandeep Singh, Mohit Sharma, Sunny Singh, Jayant Yadav.
Story first published on: Saturday, 26 October 2013 15:07 IST