The conundrum over 50 VIP passes
Landowners and pass distributors
Sachin Tendulkar's final domestic game is a big occasion for Ram Saran Malhotra, the owner of 28 acres of land around the cricket stadium in Lahli.
The Indian Express reports:
"By virtue of being the one-time owner of the land that will host the Mumbai-Haryana Ranji Trophy game - more importantly the patch of land where Sachin Tendulkar will start his long walk to the exit - the old man in spotless white kurta-pyjama has got 50 VIP passes for the Sunday-to Wednesday game.
But there is someone else here who happens to be in a bigger fix. Sarpanch Bahadur Singh is the man given the responsibility of collecting the passes from the Haryana Cricket Association officials, carrying them to the village and the dreaded job of distributing them. For the last 10 days, the village talk has been about who the sarpanch will favour and who will get his snub."
Smell of fresh paint
The Deccan Herald has details on the preparations afoot in the stadium.
"Inside the stadium, work progressed at a frenetic pace. The smell of fresh paint and woodwork wafted through the air. Adjacent to the Mumbai dressing room, an entire wall was painted in a riot of colours depicting various moments of Tendulkar's illustrious 24-year-old career. It seemed every corner of the stadium awaited the master's arrival."
The Mumbai Mirror gauges the mood:
"You know that something special is happening in the town when you overhear two ladies in their mid-forties discuss cricket. One makes an important point of Sachin Tendulkar being in town as part of the Mumbai team that will take on Haryana in the Ranji Trophy from today while the other nods and exclaims 'yes yes he is retiring'."
Zaheer Khan has admitted that the match is an emotional occasion. "The atmosphere is very festive. Everyone is excited to be seeing Sachin in the Ranji Trophy for the last time. As a team we are lucky to have him here. In a way it is like his farewell game." Read ESPNcricinfo's report for more.
Blasts from the past
"In his long and sublime career, every time Tendulkar has played against Haryana he has essayed incredible knocks that have remained etched in memories," says a piece in Cricketcountry.com. One of these matches was the Ranji Trophy final in 1991, a game where Tendulkar nearly pulled off the unthinkable.
"Nine fours and five sixes thundered from the young lad's bat as he raced to 96 from 75 balls, in days much before such belligerence was considered within the realms of possibility. With Vengsarkar at the other end, the 96 had come out of a 134-run partnership that hauled Bombay right back into the game. He finally perished in heart-breaking manner, hitting a full toss from offspinner Joginder Bhandari into the hands of cover."
Back in 2002, Wisden Asia Cricket had a first-hand account from the same match. Here's the bit about Tendulkar's innings:
"After lunch, Sachin Tendulkar, still only 18 years old, launched a counterattack with a six over the straight field off a slower one from Kapil. It was a declaration of intent. Tendulkar then greeted left-arm spinner Pradeep Jain with another straight six. As word of Tendulkar's charge spread around the city, the Wankhede began to fill up. Before long, 18000 had thronged to witness the unfolding of an epic."