Ranji opener 'perfect preparation' for Tendulkar for WI Tests - Zaheer
Mumbai's Ranji Trophy match against Haryana was "perfect preparation" for Sachin Tendulkar ahead of his farewell Test series against West Indies, Zaheer Khan has said. Tendulkar made an unbeaten 79 in his last domestic match as Mumbai chased down 240 on a grassy pitch. Zaheer, the Mumbai captain, also praised the Chaudhry Bansi Lal Stadium pitch, saying such result-oriented surfaces could only help cricket.
"Like I said before the game, this match was an important one for Sachin in light of the two Tests he's going to play," Zaheer said. "The practice he got in this game against a disciplined Haryana attack was perfect preparation for the Tests."
Zaheer said Tendulkar's team-mates want him to enjoy his final two games, just like he had taken pleasure in playing cricket over the course of his career. "If I had to say something to him, it would be: 'Make the most of it, enjoy these last two games.' We'll enjoy watching him bat.
"It's difficult to sum it up. It has been special. He has been a special player. An all-time great. His record speaks for itself. He has been a master of batting."
Tendulkar's final Ranji game was a tight scrap, both sides holding the advantage at various times before Mumbai finally plodded home with four wickets to spare on the final morning. Zaheer said it was the pitch that had enabled such a contest. "When there's an outright result, it's always good. This game definitely shows that good pitches produce interesting games. This is an encouraging sign, to see result-producing wickets such as this one.
"The match went the distance and till the end you were not sure who was winning. This was a very good wicket for cricket. Match practice is the best practice. If matches are played on wickets like this one, the game will benefit. If you produce good, result-oriented wickets, it's going to help cricket."
Zaheer commended the Haryana captain, Ajay Jadeja, for the way he led during the chase. Tendulkar and Dhawal Kulkarni were made to work for almost two hours to make the 39 runs Mumbai needed on the fourth day. "Ajay led well. The bowling changes, the pressure they put on us, the field placings, the discipline they maintained, I felt Ajay was influential there. This Haryana side is a young side, so the knowledge and experience he has will definitely help them."
Mumbai had bowled out Haryana for 134 in an extended opening session on day one but themselves crumbled for 136 on the second morning against Joginder Sharma. Zaheer said Joginder's four wickets in four overs turned the match but he was glad Mumbai displayed character in the chase. "I felt that we were in the driver's seat till the end of the first day. The second morning was crucial but Joginder Sharma produced a brilliant spell to get them back in the game. I felt that we could have sealed the game there if we had taken a decent lead. That didn't happen.
"I'm happy with the way we fought in the second innings. The help in the wicket was dying, but we showed patience. Sachin's knock was crucial, but the manner in which Ajinkya [Rahane] and Kaustubh [Pawar] applied themselves was encouraging. And Dhawal's innings at the end was crucial too."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo