Former New Zealand all-rounder Richard Hadlee believes Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman ever to grace the game. Hadlee, 57, who became the first official inductee to ICC's Hall of Fame on the first day of the Wellington Test, said he was in awe of Tendulkar whose achievements down the years "clearly had been phenomenal".

"I played against Sachin on his tour here in 1990 when he got that 80 or 90-odd at McLean Park in Napier," Hadlee told PTI. "You could see then, as a youngster, he was a player of immense ability and talent.

"We didn't see at that time and you cannot visualise 20 years down the track what the player is likely to do in the context of the history of the game. When you score as many runs as he has in Test and one-day cricket and score as many centuries and half centuries as he has done, it makes him arguably the greatest player ever in the history of the game. Statistics speak volumes of his contribution to Indian and world cricket. He is a phenomenal player."

Hadlee said comparisons with Donald Bradman should also drive Tendulkar as a player. "Well, Sir Donald Bradman has been regarded as the greatest player ever," Hadlee said. "He played just Test cricket. He hasn't played any other forms of the game. Clearly, that is understandable. But to see Sachin and other players actually adjust to different forms of the game and different conditions all around the world, even though the average is fractionally more than half of the Don's is in itself incredible. You got to respect it and write those performances."

The ICC has drawn up an initial list of 55 inductees to the Hall of Fame, and Hadlee was the only New Zealander to have made the cut. "I have been very fortunate during my playing career and to be recognised is very very special," Hadlee said. "To be one of the first 55 inductees, it doesn't get much better than that.

He said he would like to be remembered as "somebody who played hard in a very successful era for New Zealand cricket". "This honour is right up there with the others," he said. "So many fantastic players have been recognised, some that I have played against, others that I watched and read about as a youngster, and many others in the early 1900s that were legendary in their own right and fantastic role models."

Hadlee played 86 Tests from 1973 to 1990 during which he took a then record 431 wickets and scored 3,124 runs. He also picked up 158 wickets and made 1,751 runs in 115 ODIs. Hadlee said his "best Test win" came at Brisbane in 1985-86 where he picked up 15 wickets. "As sports people, we all strive for perfection and the closest I could get to that was against the Australians at the Gabba," Hadlee said. "We'd never won in Australia before, and to go ahead and win that Test by an innings and 41 runs and to make a personal contribution of nine wickets in the first innings (he had a hand in the 10th dismissal as a catcher) and six in the second and scored a few runs… you can't get better than really. Everything came together at the right time..."