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Australia honours Tendulkar; Sachin credits first trip Down Under for toughening him up

Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar was today conferred with the membership of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to India-Australia relations by promoting goodwill, friendship and sportsmanship through the sport.

The award was conferred on the 39-year-old master batsman by the Australian Arts Minister Simon Crean here. He was presented with a medal and a cricket stump. Tendulkar became only the second Indian after former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee to get the honour. Sorabjee was made an Honorary Member of the Order of Australia (AM) "for service to Australia-India bilateral legal relations" in 2006. Tendulkar is the fourth non-Australian cricketer to be made an Order of Australia AM, the other three being West Indian legends -- Brian Lara, Sir Garfield Sobers and Clive Lloyd. Lara was made an honorary member in 2009 while Lloyd was conferred with the award way back in 1985. Sir Garfield Sobers got the award in 2003.

Tendulkar is considered as one of the greatest batsman the game has ever produced with more than 30,000 international runs under his belt. He has scored 15,533 runs in 190 Tests besides a mammoth 18,426 runs in 463 ODIs.

Sachin, Crean, Anjali
Anjali Tendulkar (left) captures the moment on her mobile when Australian minister Simon Crean conferred the membership to the Order of Australia on Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai on Tuesday. Pic/Suresh K.K

Australia minister Simon Crean said Tendulkar deserved the honour. "From the heart of the game in London to the streets of Mumbai and throughout the world, cricket unites people from many cultures. Cricket is Australia's national game and one that we share a great love of with India. Our two countries embrace the game like nowhere else. "Today I am proud to have this opportunity to honour a great sportsman, a great cricketer, a philanthropist, and someone who has inspired a generation Sachin Tendulkar," Crean said. 

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced the honorary AM for Tendulkar when she visited India last month.

Tendulkar said the first trip Down Under way back in 1991-92 changed him as a cricketer and pointed out that the Aussies had a role in his transformation into a "tougher" player.

"It (the 1991-92 tour of Australia) completely changed me as a cricketer. It was a critical moment of my career. Three and half months changed me completely. "I thought I was ready to play against any attack in the world and I can say that Australia has had some contribution in that to transform me into a tougher cricketer," Tendulkar said after receiving the honour at a function here.

He said the Aussies, who are known for their mental toughness, also appreciate quality performace. "We all know Australians are fierce competitors but when you do well against them, they shower on you all the compliments. And that is what happened to me. I scored reasonably well and scored a couple of hundreds there (in the Test series).

"That (the Test rubber) was followed by the tri-series against the West Indies, another tough opposition", he said.

Tendulkar further said he dreamt of playing in Australia ever since he was a 12-year-old. "The association with Australia started long time ago and not in 1991. To me it started way back in 85 when I was 12 years old watching those fantastic day-night matches on television. I started dreaming that one day I want to go there and play cricket. It turned into a reality in 1991-92," he said.

The 39-year-old batsman got nostalgic when he recalled the moment when he met Sir Don Bradman and admitted that he was very nervous. "The most memorable trip to Australia was when I was asked to come and wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday. I was in the middle of a national camp in Chennai and the BCCI graciously agreed to send me.

Tendulkar recollected that he was tense prior to meeting the late Australian legend Bradman. "I met Sir Don along with (Shane) Warnie. We both were so tense, we didn't know how to react. We were driving to his place thinking about what questions to ask him. I said it's your turn. You are an Australian you should know better. I told him you start and I will take over a little bit later", he said.

"But the moment we went there we were struck by his personality. We just stood beside him and allowed him to talk as much as we could because we wanted to hear him. Sir Don had said the standard of playing in cricket was better now. "The natural question was what would you have averaged in today's cricket. He said maybe 70... The natural reaction was why only 70, why not 99.94, he said come on son it is not bad for a 90 year old man. That trip was truly a memorable one," he said.

Sachin
Australian minister Simon Crean and Sachin Tendulkar admire a special wicket presented to the cricketer in Mumbai on Tuesday. Pic/Suresh K.K

According to Tendulkar, outside India, he enjoys playing in Australia and Sydney is his favourite ground. "It is a wonderful spot to play cricket. I have to say publicly that away from India, it is the best spot I have enjoyed playing cricket. And away from India, Sydney is my favourite ground.

"I think these two things are so dear to me and have left me with such fond memories, especially SCG where I got the opportunity to hold Sir Don's bat which he had used. "It takes a step further in my liking for Australia and SCG. I have met so many Australians who have said Australia is going to thrash you but we want you to score a century."

He added that the 2007 tour was also a memorable one for him as he received standing ovation at each stadium. "The 2007 trip was very special because wherever I went, whenever I went to bat, the entire stadium gave me standing ovation. It was touching, something which will always stay with me for the rest of my life. "On a lighter note, a friend of mine asked how does it feel, I said it feels great but I laugh in my mind because they all feel this is my last trip to Australia. I am glad I was there again. After 2007, how I couldn't be there in Australia in 2011?" 

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