Sachin Tendulkar wins top India honour - Bharat Ratna

  • Published
Media caption,

Sachin Tendulkar's retirement has left many celebrating his achievements, and others distraught

India's cricket star Sachin Tendulkar has been awarded the country's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.

The award was announced hours after Tendulkar retired from international cricket following India's victory over the West Indies in a Test in Mumbai.

Tendulkar is the first sportsman to win the award and - at 40 - the youngest.

Previous recipients include India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Rajiv and Indira Gandhi.

The award is made on a recommendation by the prime minister to the president.

'Rare phenomenon'

Tendulkar bowed out of international cricket after his 200th Test match - 24 years and one day after his first.

He played in 664 international matches, scoring 34,357 runs and making 100 centuries. He scored almost 2,500 more Test runs than the second-placed batsman, Ricky Ponting.

Tendulkar was nominated to the upper house of parliament last year.

Junior parliamentary affairs minister Rajiv Shukla, who is also vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said: "I think he is the most deserving person for Bharat Ratna. I would like to congratulate the central government, Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, for recommending his name."

Tendulkar will receive the award on India's Republic Day (26 January) next year.

The BBC's Andrew North, who was at the Test in Mumbai, said the match had really only been about one player.

Our correspondent says that India may have soundly beaten the West Indies, but the result hardly mattered to most of the fans watching in Tendulkar's home ground - which they had hung with banners saying "Thank you".

As the last West Indies wicket fell, Tendulkar left the pitch for the final time, weeping as he went.

In a 20-minute post-match address, he paid tribute to his father, who died in 1999, saying: "Without his guidance I don't think I would be standing in front of you."

He also thanked his mother Rajni - who had watched him in person for the first time at this match - his son, daughter and wife Anjali.

Addressing his fans, he said: "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and say that time has gone by rather quickly, but the memories that you've left with me will always be with me forever and ever."

International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson paid tribute to the man known as the Little Master, saying: "Sporting geniuses like Sachin are rare phenomenons and we are privileged to have seen him in action."

India teammate Yuvraj Singh said: "Everybody talks about his records, but the standard he set off the field was incredible."