Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar is probably at the same juncture he was 24 years back, when he made his first-class debut at the age of 15 against Gujarat in 1988-89. Perhaps, during this period, he has achieved everything he once thought a distant dream. But the zeal to excel, so that he can represent his country one more time, still seems to be a part of his psyche.
And it is that same urge which made him one of the best batsmen the world has seen, which could bring the best out of him once again, when he will represent Mumbai in the final of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy against Saurashtra, starting Saturday.
Tendulkar's last few outings in Test cricket, when he was constantly beaten and cleaned up by bowling and bowlers he once mastered, couldn't generate the same fervor he was once associated with. With questions being raised about his waning form and age after each failure, Tendulkar’s state of mind could not be very different from wanting another innings to get himself back in the thick of things. And his retirement from limited-overs cricket might have given him that little space he was craving for so long, so that he could wipe out the little rust which seems to have settled on that run-yielding bat of his.
This will be Tendulkar's 36th appearance for Mumbai and sixth Ranji Trophy final, and as his performance reflects in the three matches he has played so far this season, the 39-year-old is game for every challenge. The final is just another stage on which Tendulkar can stamp his authority again. In the season opener against Railways, he made 137 in a bid to get ready for the Tests against England. Following his retirement, he scored 108 and 9 in the quarter-final draw with Baroda and 56 in the semi-final win over Services.
At the historic Wankhede, Tendulkar’s home ground, he has an impeachable record in Ranji Trophy finals. In four matches on this venue, his scores read 47, 96 (against Haryana in 1991), 140 and 139 (against Punjab in 1995), 53 and 128 (against Hyderabad in 2000) and 105 and 43 (against Bengal in 2007).
And Tendulkar’s presence has given the Mumbai dressing room an extra edge missing in their early matches. His Mumbai team-mates want take everything the veteran has to offer. "The kind of aura he [Tendulkar] carries and his presence in the dressing room is a big motivation for all of us. To have him in the dressing room, to get to talk to him, to get his expertise is something we all thrive on. It's obviously a big boost for us," said allrounder Abhishek Nayar.
Tendulkar has already served Mumbai, the city and team, like no other sportsperson has done, and to help them win another title, which would be their 40th – the most by any other team by far, will not only give a huge boost for his team members and the people but also serve him as a tonic that he needs to get himself motivated and prepared for the Australia series, which is just round the corner.