The recently retired Sachin Tendulkar is set to become the first sportsperson to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.
Tendulkar will be conferred with the honour along with acclaimed scientist Professor CNR Rao, on the upcoming Republic Day next year.
An official PMO release called Tendulkar "an outstanding cricketer - a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe".
"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," said the release.
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Tendulkar, who called time from all forms of cricket on Saturday after his 200th Test match against the West Indies at his home ground, the Wankhede Stadium, was expected to be awarded the honour after it emerged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had recommended his name to President Pranab Mukherjee a few days ago.
Other influential names who allegedly pitched for the Little Master include Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajeev Shukla, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The rules for awarding the Bharat Ratna were modified a few years ago to include sportspersons and not just artistes and personnel from the fields of art, literature, science and public services.
The Board Cricket for Cricket in India (BCCI) welcomed the announcement.
"Tendulkar is an inspirational figure, and a role model for all sportspersons. He richly deserves the Bharat Ratna. I extend my heartiest congratulations to him," said BCCI president N. Srinivasan.
"He is the most deserving person. I congratulate the government for this decision. The timing is also right. His records cannot be broken for the next 100 years," added BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla.
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