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Australia transformed me into a tough cricketer: Tendulkar

Last updated on: November 6, 2012 20:29 IST

'This medal means a lot to me'

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India's legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who was conferred the prestigious Order of Australia, paid rich tribute to his fans Down Under.

The iconic batsman was presented the Order by Simon Crean , Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and the Arts, at a function in Mumbai on Tuesday.

"It is overwhelming. I want to take this opportunity to thank honorable Prime Minister [Julia] Gillard, Minister [Simon] Crean, the High Commissioner and the Counsel General. Obviously, how can I forget the people of Australia who have supported me over the years, I want to thank all of them for this huge honour. This medal means a lot to me," Tendulkar said.


Image: Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts presents the award to Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com

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'Australia completely changed me as a cricketer'

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Tendulkar, 39, played his first Test in Australia nearly two decades ago, way back in 1991-92. He was an instant hit with the fans there after scoring 148 not out in the third Test at Sydney, and then smashing 114 on a bouncy wicket at the Perth.

The Mumbai batsman pointed out that that tour to Australia, as an 18-year-old, helped in shaping his successful career.

"How many times a young cricketer like I was -- 18 years old that time -- gets to spend three-and-half-months in Australia, playing against the top side in the world. It completely changed me as a cricketer. It was a critical moment of my career, and we all know Australians are fierce competitors; but when you do well against them, they shower you with compliments, and that is what happened to me.

"I did reasonably well, scored a couple of hundreds there, followed by a tri-series against West Indies, another tough opposition. So those three-and-half months changed me completely.

"I thought I was ready to play any attack in the world, and I can say Australia has had some contribution in that, because to transform me into a tough cricketer one had to be there, one had to experience how cricket is played Down Under. It really helped me.

"And then, the mega event of the World Cup immediately, in 1992. We were there for a month and the kind of atmosphere I experienced was truly fantastic," he said.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com

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Tendulkar treasures meeting Sir Donald Bradman

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Tendulkar also got the rare honour of meeting the legendary Sir Donald Bradman on his 90th birthday in 1998, along with former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne.

"The most memorable trip of Australia was when I was invited to wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday. I was in the middle of a National camp in Chennai and BCCI graciously agreed to send me to Australia for 3-4 days when I had the opportunity of meeting Sir Don along with Warnie. Now, we both were so tensed, we didn't know how to react. I clearly remember we were driving to Sir Don's place and we were discussing what questions we were thinking of asking. I said, 'Warnie, it is your turn, you are Australian and you know him better'. So I told him you start and I will take over little bit.

"But the moment we went there we were struck by his personality and we just stood there besides him and just allowed him to talk, because we just wanted to hear him. And, discussing about cricket, he felt the standard of cricket was much better now, so the natural question was: 'Sir Don, what would you have averaged in today's cricket?' He said, 'maybe 70'. So the natural reaction was 'why only 70, why not 99.94?', and he said, 'Come on, son, it is not bad for a 90-year-old man!' Tendulkar recollected.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com

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'2007 trip was truly a memorable one'

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Despite the Australians dominating world cricket in the 1990s and early part of the following decade, Tendulkar always proved to be their biggest nemesis with the bat.

The right-hander has toured Down Under five times for Test match series and his most memorable trip was in 2007 when he got a standing ovation every time he walked out to bat.

"That trip was truly a memorable one. And to talk about the 2007 tour -- a special one for me -- because wherever I went, whenever I went to bat, the entire stadium gave me a standing ovation. It was touching and will always stay with me for the rest of my life. On a lighter note, a friend of mine asked me, 'How does it feel?' I said, 'it feels great, but, at the same time, I laugh in my mind. You know why? Because they all feel this is my last trip.' I am glad I was there again," he said, with a smile.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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'Away from India, my favourite ground is Sydney'

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The Order of Australia was established in 1975 by Queen of Australia Elizabeth II. The country has a history of honouring the achievements of non-Australians, who have made outstanding contributions to the Australia and the world. In 1982, Mother Theresa was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia for service to the community of Australia and humanity at large.

In 2006, Soli Sorabjee, who twice served as India's Attorney General, was the first Indian citizen to be honoured. He was made an honorary member of the Order of Australia.

Among overseas cricketers, Tendulkar is also third after the West Indian duo of Clive Lloyd and Brian Lara, who were also conferred the honour in the past.

Tendulkar reiterated his love for Australia, saying after India the country is his preferred choice to play cricket.

"In fact, I have to say publicly now that away from India it is the best spot I have enjoyed playing cricket, and away from India, my favourite ground is also Sydney. I think these two things are so dear to me and they have left me with such fond memories, especially Sydney, where I had the opportunity to hold Sir Don's cricket bat which he had used. It takes a step further in my liking of Australia and the Sydney Cricket Ground," he said.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com

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'The affection I receive from Australians will be with me forever'

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He also paid tribute to his fans in Australia, saying the love and affection he received from them will be with him forever.

"I came across so many Australians who said, 'you know Australia is going to thrash you, but we want you to score a hundred'. Such is the reception and affection I receive from all Australians which will be with me forever. I know we will be playing a series in a couple of months, which will be closely-fought and fiercely-fought in the right spirit of the game. I just want to finally take this opportunity to thank all the Australians, the Honorable Prime Minister for conferring this award on me; it really means a lot to me."

Tendulkar might have played his last Test in Australia, but he says he will return to the country as a tourist in the years to come. "Who knows, I might be again to Australia, maybe to play cricket or just as a tourist, because I just love that spot."


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
Tags: Australia

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