Sachin Tendulkar has rated Mumbai's semifinal victory over Tamil Nadu in the 1999-2000 season as his most memorable moment in the 33 appearances he has made in the Ranji Trophy, the 78th edition of which got underway in various centres on Thursday.
"We chased 484 runs and the funny thing was, we had to score 42 runs with only two wickets in hand. I ended up scoring those 42 runs and No 10 and 11 both scored zero. The competition was so fierce and intense, I didn't realise that both batsmen [No. 10 and No. 11] hadn't scored a single run."
"It got to that moment where we scored the winning run and my reaction said it all. That has to be my favourite moment," the batting maestro told the Cricket Board's website "www.bcci.tv".
Tendulkar made an unbeaten 233 off 234 balls with five sixes and 21 fours and in that match held at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Incidentally, Mumbai played against Hyderabad at the same venue in the final and vanquished the visitors by 297 runs to clinch the title, with Tendulkar making 53 and 128 in the match.
The champion cricketer also emphasised the importance of the national championship in a young cricketer's growth.
"I think Ranji Trophy is an extremely important tournament. I remember in my case, when I was part of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad, we had possibly seven or eight Test players and to rub shoulders with the likes of (Dilip) Vengsarkar, (Ravi) Shastri, (Sanjay) Manjrekar, Lalchand Rajput, Chandrakant Pandit, Raju Kulkarni, Suru Nayak, all these top players, it was a great opportunity for me to learn at such an early age. I thoroughly enjoyed my season. I was only 15 then but it was great fun to be part of that team."
Tendulkar feels the competition in the championship is intense but emphasises that good performances on good tracks and against strong opposition have to be given importance.
"The competition is fierce and that is how it should be. You've got to have good tracks to play on and good opposition to play against. That's what raises the standard of playing. If somebody performs well against a good opposition, then that performance has to be recognised."
"I'm sure the selectors are trying their best to watch most of the matches. To have the top players playing this tournament is always an additional bonus," he told the BCCI's website.
Another India batting stalwart Rahul Dravid echoed Tendulkar's views about the importance of Ranji Trophy in the overall health of the game in the country.
"It is an extremely important tournament. It is just a step below international cricket. High standards in the Ranji Trophy lead to the creation of a strong international team, hence it is very critical that the Ranji Trophy is played in a competitive manner, on good grounds and on good wickets. It has to be played with positivity and intent," Dravid said on the BCCI website.