Sachin Tendulkar was conferred the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, by the president Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday. Tendulkar, 40, is the first sportsperson, as well as the youngest person to receive the award. Speaking during the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Tendulkar said that though he had retired from the game, he would "continue to bat" for India in all spheres of life.
"It's the biggest honour for me and I am extremely delighted on receiving the Bharat Ratna," Tendulkar said. "I am extremely proud to be born in this beautiful nation and I would like to express my gratitude to all the love, affection and support I have received for number of years.
"My cricket has stopped, but I will continue to bat for India and try my best to give people of India a reason to smile," he said. "I would like to reiterate what I said a couple of months ago about this recognition and dedicate this to my mother and along with her, all the mothers in India who sacrifice their wishes, aspirations for their children so that their dreams come true."
Tendulkar, who retired from cricket on November 16, 2013 as the game's highest run-scorer in both Tests and ODIs, also saved praise for Professor CNR Rao, the other recipient of this year's Bharat Ratna.
"I would like to congratulate Prof CNR Rao for the Bharat Ratna. He has been instrumental in motivating and inspiring youth of India to become scientists. I wish him all the happiness and good health."
India captain MS Dhoni, speaking before the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland, said Tendulkar thoroughly "deserved" the honour. "As a civilian, you cannot get a bigger honour than this. Definitely he deserves it.
"The way he has handled himself, not only on the field, off the field as well... Whenever we talk about him, we keep saying the same thing: ideal role model. The kind of pressure there is in Indian cricket, he handled it very well. The kind of performance he has given since the time he debuted was fantastic. An honour well deserved."