Tendulkar gets the mic finally! Here goes: “Friends please settle down, I’ll get more emotional! It’s hard to believe my wonderful journey is coming to an end. I’ve a list of names to thank. The first is my father, who passed away in 1999. Without his guidance I wouldn’t be standing in front of you. he said ‘chase your dreams, don’t give up, the path will be difficult.’ I miss him today. My mom, I don’t know how she managed a naughty child like me. She just prayed and prayed from the day I started playing the game.
For four years I stayed with my uncle and aunt when in school, they treated me like their own son. My eldest brother Nitin doesn’t like to talk ,much but he said, whatever you do, I know you will give 100%. My first cricket bat was presented to me by my sister Savita. She still continues to fast while I bat. Ajit my brother – We have lived this dream together, he sacrificed his career for me, he took me to Achrekar sir first. Even last night he called me to discuss my dismissal. Even when I’m not playing we will still be discussing technique. If that hadn’t happened, I would have been a lesser cricketer.
“The most beautiful thing happened to me when I met Anjali in 1990. I know that being a doctor there was a big career in front of her. But she decided that I should continue playing and she took care of the children. Thanks for bearing with me for all the nonsense I’ve said (Anjali wipes tears). Then the two precious diamonds of my life Sara and Arjun. I’ve missed out on several birthdays, holidays. I know for 14-16 years I’ve not spent enough time with you. But I promise you I will spend the next 16.
“My inlaws – I’ve discussed several things with them. The most important thing they did was allow me to marry Anjali. In the last 24 years my friends have made terrific contributions. They have been with me while I was stressed. They have been with me even at 3am when I was injured. Thanks for being there for me.
“My career started when I was 11. I was extremely delighted to see Achrekar sir in the stands. I used to ride on his scooter and play two matches a day. Sir took me along to make sure I played. On a lighter note, Sir never said ‘well played’ because he didn’t want me to be complacent. You can push your luck now, Sir, since I’m not playing cricket anymore.
“I started my career here in Mumbai. I remember landing from NZ at 4am and playing a Ranji game the next day. The BCCI was fantastic from my debut. Thanks to the selectors. You were right with me making sure I was well taken care of. “Thanks to all the senior cricketers who have played with me. We see on the screen Rahul, VVS, Sourav, Anil who is not here. All the coaches. I know when MS presented the 200th Test cap, I had a message to the team – I said we are all so proud to be representing the nation. I hope to continue to serve the nation with dignity. I have full faith that you will serve the country in the right spirit.
I will be failing in my duty if I didn’t thank the doctors who have kept me fit. Given the injuries I have suffered. They have treated me in odd hours. My dear friend the late Mark Mascarenhas. I miss him. My current management team WSG, for continuing what Mark has done. Someone who has worked closely with me for 14 years is my friend Vinod Nayudu. “The media has backed me a lot, since my school days. Even today. Thank you. Thanks to the photographers for capturing those moments.
“I know my speech has become long. I want to thank people who have flown in from different parts of the world. I want to thank my fans from the bottom of my heart. “Sachin, Sachin” will reverberate in my ears till I stop breathing.” (Followed by loud cheers).
To be conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award. The Prime Minister’s Office made the announcement hours after Tendulkar brought down the curtains on a 24-year international career. “Shri Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtedly an outstanding cricketer – a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe,” a PMO release said. “During the last 24 years, since the young age of 16 years, Shri Tendulkar has played cricket across the world and won laurels for our country. He has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports. His achievements in cricket are unparalleled, the records set by him unmatched, and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him exemplary. That he has been honoured with several awards is testimony to his extraordinary brilliance as a sportsman.”
Speculation about Tendulkar getting the award has been around for years, and peaked in 2011 when the criteria for being eligible for the award was broadened. Originally, the honour was for excellence in “art, literature, science and public services” but was amended to recognise “performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour”.
In 2008, Tendulkar became the first sportsperson, along with chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, to receive the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour. Previously, Tendulkar has received the Arjuna Award (a national award for distinguished sports persons) in 1994, and in 1998 he received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country’s highest sporting honour. The next year, he was the recipient of the Padma Shri ( the fourth-highest civilian award).
My eldest brother, Nitin, and his family, have always encouraged me. My eldest brother doesn’t like to talk much, but the one thing he always told me is that whatever you do, I know you will always give it 100%, and that I have full faith and confidence in you. His encouragement meant a lot to me. My sister, Savita, and her family, was no different. The first cricket bat of my life was presented to me by my sister. It was a Kashmir willow bat. But that is where the journey began. She is one of those many who still continue to fast when I bat, so thank you very much.Ajit, my brother, now what do I talk about him? I don’t know.
We have lived this dream together. He was the one who sacrificed his career for my cricket. He spotted the spark in me. And it all started from the age of 11 when he took me to Archrekar sir, my coach, and from there on my life changed. You will find this hard to believe but even last night he called to discuss my dismissal, knowing that there was a remote chance of batting again, but just the habit we have developed, the rapport we have developed, since my birth, has continued and it will continue. Maybe when I’m not playing cricket we will still be discussing technique.
Various things we agreed upon, my technique, and so many technical things which I didn’t agree with him, we have had arguments and disagreements, but when I look back at all these things in my life, I would have been a lesser cricketer.
The most beautiful thing happened to me in 1990 when I met my wife, Anjali. Those were special years and it has continued and will always continue that way. I know Anjali, being a doctor; there was a wonderful career in front of her. When we decided to have a family, Anjali took the initiative to step back and say that ‘you continue with your cricket and I will take the responsibility of the family’.
Without that, I don’t think I would have been able to play cricket freely and without stress. Thanks for bearing with all my fuss and all my frustrations, and all sorts of rubbish that I have spoken. Thanks for bearing with me and always staying by my side through all the ups and downs. You are the best partnership I’ve had in my life.
Then, the two precious diamonds of my life, Sara and Arjun. They have already grown up. My daughter is 16, my son is 14. Time has flown by. I wanted to spend so much time with them on special occasions like their birthdays, their annual days, their sports day, going on holidays, whatever. I have missed out on all those things. Thanks for your understanding. Both of you have been so, so special to me you cannot imagine. I promise you that for 14 and 16 years I have not spent enough time with both of you, but the next 16 years or even beyond that, everything is for you.
My in-laws, Anand Mehta and Annabelle, both have been so, so supportive and loving and caring. I have discussed on various things in life, generally with them, and have taken their advice. You know, it’s so important to have a strong family who is always with you and who are guiding you. Before you start clapping, the most important thing they did was allowing me to marry Anjali, so thank you very much.
In the last 24 years that I have played for India I have made new friends, and before that I have had friends from my childhood. They have all had a terrific contribution. As and when I have called them to come and bowl to me at the nets, they have left their work aside to come and help me. Be it joining me on holidays and having discussions with me on cricket, or how I was a little stressed and wanting to find a solution so I can perform better.
My cricket for Mumbai started right here on this ground, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), which is so dear to me. I remember landing from New Zealand at four o’clock in the morning, and turning up for a game here at eight o’clock just because I wanted to be a part of Mumbai cricket, and not that somebody forced me. That was for the love of Mumbai cricket, and thank you very much. The president is here so thank you very much, along with your team, for taking care of me and looking after my cricket.The dream was obviously to play for India, and that is where my association with BCCI started. BCCI was fantastic, right from my debut they believed in my ability and selecting me into the squad at the age of 16 was a big step, so thanks to all the selectors for having faith in me and the BCCI for giving me the freedom to express myself out in the middle. Things would have been different if you had not been behind me, and I really appreciate your support. Especially when I was injured, you were right with me and making sure that all the treatments were taken care of, and that I got fit and fine and playing right back for India.
The journey has been special, the last 24 years, I have played with many senior cricketers, and even before that there were many senior cricketers with whom I watched on television. They inspired me to play cricket, and to play in the right way. Thanks to all those senior cricketers, and unfortunately I have not been able to play with them, but I have high regards for all their achievements and all their contributions. We see it on the mega-screen, Rahul, Laxman, Sourav, and Anil, who is not here, and my team-mates right here in front me. You are like my family away from home. I have had some wonderful times with you. It is going to be difficult to not be part of the dressing room, sharing those special moments. All the coaches for their guidance, it has been special for me. I know when MS Dhoni presented me the 200th Test match cap on day one morning. I had a brief message for the team. I would like to repeat that. I just feel that all of us are so, so fortunate and proud to be part of the Indian cricket team and serving the nation.
All those moments my friends were with me. Even for when I was injured, I would wake up in the morning because I couldn’t sleep and thought that my career was over because of injuries, that is when my friends have woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning to drive with me and make me believe that my career was not over. Life would be incomplete without all those friends. Thanks for being there for me. Previous recipients of the Bharat Ratna has included global icons like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. — with Sameer Bharati.