Mumbai has proved again it's a champion side: Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar played in Mumbai's first Ranji Trophy match this season, scoring a hundred (137) against Railways.
He subsequently left the team to represent India in the home Test series against England. And, in his absence, Mumbai, having failed to reach the final in the last two years, struggled in the group stages, scoring just one outright win -- against Madhya Pradesh -- in eight matches.
Tendulkar was available for Mumbai's final group game against Gujarat at the DY Patil Stadium (Nerul), a match the home team needed to avoid defeat to make sure of a berth in the knock-out stages, having just announced his retirement from One-Day Internationals. However, the Master Blaster skipped the match, preferring to take a family holiday instead.
However, once Mumbai made it to the knock-outs, Tendulkar made himself available, in what was a timely boost for the team.
The 39-year-old returned with another hundred (108) as Mumbai got the better of Baroda in the quarter-finals at the Wankhede stadium.
He scored 56 in the semi-finals against Services at the Palam Ground, a rain-affected match that went into the sixth day, with Mumbai going through on the basis of the first innings lead.
Mumbai was, thus, back in the final, playing Saurashtra at the Wankhede. Tendulkar looked good in his 22 before he was run-out. However, Mumbai scored a thumping innings and 125-run victory to win their 40th Ranji title.
Image: Mumbai Ranji team
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
'Team stuck together and performed brilliantly'
The Master Blaster had played in just four of Mumbai's 11 matches. However, his mere presence in the team served as a morale booster.
"It's a wonderful feeling that we have won for the 40th time," said Tendulkar, after the final.
"Mumbai has shown again that we are a champion side," he continued, adding, "We have got some real good players, a nice blend of senior players and youngsters.
"It's a beautiful combination."
The ace batsman admitted that it was tough for the team in the initial phase, but added that period gave the team a certain character.
"There were moments when the going got tough," explained Tendulkar, clearly referring to Mumbai's struggle in the group phase.
"But that's when the team stuck together and performed brilliantly."
The Master Blaster proceeded to congratulate his captain and former India teammate Ajit Agarkar.
"I feel especially happy for Ajit. He had a rough season last year, going through difficult times, but led from the front and led beautifully at that. He performed when it mattered and the team supported him nicely along with the support staff," he said.
It was the fifth time, in six finals, that Tendulkar was part of a Mumbai team that won India's premier domestic competition. However, the champion that he is, he preferred to credit the whole team.
"It's a wonderful moment for Mumbai cricket. It's been team work and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate every one and hope it continues," he said.
Image: Wasim Jaffer picks up the Ranji Trophy title
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra