Lost in the crowd surrounding Sachin Tendulkar following his match-winning knock in his last Ranji Trophy game, Mumbai's Dhawal Kulkarni on Wednesday said it was the retiring legend's guidance that helped him hang around after being hit on the face by a sharp bouncer.
Tendulkar's farewell game ended in a manner befitting his iconic stature, as he almost singlehandedly guided Mumbai to a four-wicket victory over Haryana in one of the most keenly followed matches in the history of Ranji Trophy, here.
The 26-year-old pacer was associated in an unbroken 50-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Tendulkar and, despite having to endure a barrage of rising deliveries on a difficult pitch, Kulkarni stood firm.
"It was he who advised me to stay relaxed after I was hit, and it helped," Kulkarni, who was born on the day Tendulkar made his Ranji Trophy on December 10, 1988, said after Mumbai's four-wicket win.
Requiring 39 runs to win with four wickets in hand on the fourth and final day, Tendulkar went on to make a calculated 175-ball 79 not out, building his innings in the manner that has been the hallmark of his later years.
Kulkarni, who hit the winning boundary, remained unbeaten on 16 after grinding it out for 126 minutes. Mumbai were some way off the target when the tireless Mohit Sharma, steaming in, hit Kulkarni with a sharp delivery that took off on landing at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium.
Kulkarni would never like to forget the day as not only did Tendulkar signed off on a winning note, he saw the master do it from the non-striker's end.
"Batting with him is a special feeling and that we have won the game for Mumbai together is a dream come true for me," Kulkarni, who hit two fours and faced 72 balls during his stay in the middle, said.
As Tendulkar turned and raised his bat in triumph towards the Mumbai dressing room, his arms outstretched, after helping his side cross the line, the Haryana players shook his hands before the iconic batsman was carried off the pitch on the shoulders of his teammates.
The Haryana reserves, too, joined in honouring the man whose mere presence was enough to draw in the attention of the entire cricketing world to this sleepy village.