A special game, gush Zaheer, Kulkarni

Sachin Tendulkar was barely a school boy when he played for Mumbai against Gujarat and went on to score a century on his debut.

Sulakshan Kulkarni was the wicketkeeper in that match. Now, the coach of Mumbai, Kulkarni considers himself lucky to have witnessed Tendulkar’s first and final Ranji Trophy match.   

Kulkarni vividly remembers seeing a young Tendulkar when he turned out for the Shardashram School team, run by his coach Ramakant Achrekar.

“Achrekar sir used to keep one batsman “flexible”, which meant he could play for two teams (competing at adjacent grounds). I remember once Tendulkar was the flexible batsmen and he scored a century for one team, remained padded up, and then batted for the other. That was the first time I saw him,” Kulkarni told Deccan Herald.

“He was just amazing. He was comfortable against every ball. When playing against Gujarat, we were looking to get quick runs. Tendulkar scored a quickfire hundred, his second fifty coming in just five or six overs. On his Ranji debut, he was so graceful. It was a great pleasure playing with him.”

In all these years, said Kulkarni, “his commitment and simplicity have remain unchanged. He is very honest about his cricket and will never compromise there. He always tells the boys the same even though he doesn’t talk much in dressing room. When saying something, he is always specific in his advice.”

Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan said it was a special game for the team. “It is a special game for all of us. Everyone is excited to be seeing Sachin in the Ranji for the last time. As a team we are lucky to have him here.

In a way it is like his farewell game. It is emotional and exciting and there are mixed feelings in the camp,” Zaheer said.

“The emotion and the occasion will help everyone put in that extra bit to perform. The feelings are mixed, but everyone is excited that he is available for this game,” the left-arm pacer said.

Asked how Tendulkar was feeling ahead of his farewell Tests, Zaheer said: “He is enjoying the game as he was when he started. We are happy to have him around. The way preparations are going, it’s going to help him play those last two games well.”

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