Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who bid adieu to international cricket on Saturday after playing his 200th Test match against the West Indies in Mumbai, and eminent scientist Prof C.N.R. Rao have been given India's highest civilian award of Bharat Ratna.
The 40-year-old Sachin is the first sportsperson to get the Bharat Ratna which is given to those who have rendered exceptional service to the country.
A globally recognized scientist with hundreds of 1,400 research papers and 45 books to his credit, Prof C.N.R. Rao, 89, is the third scientist get the nation's highest civilian award after Nobel Laureate C V Raman and former President A P J Abdul Kalam.
Announcing the award on an emotionally charged day when Sachin moved millions across the country with his post-retirement speech, a government statement said, "Sachin Tendulkar is a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe. During the last 24 years, since the young age of 16 years, 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.''
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally phoned both Sachin and Prof Rao to thank them for their exceptional services to India.
A PMO statement said, "Dr. Manmohan Singh telephoned Prof Rao and wished him many more years of continued service to nation and the world of science. The Prime Minister spoke to Sachin Tendulkar and wished him all success in what he chooses to do after his retirement. He hoped Tendulkar would continue his association with the world of sport and the people and renew his service to the nation.''
At the Wankhede stadium, Sachin Tendulkar said an emotional goodbye to cricket with tears in his eyes.
After the awards ceremony where he was joined by his wife Anjali and children Sara and Arjun, Sachin moved millions of Indians with his thank-you speech. Here is the full text of his speech:
"All my friends, settle down let me talk, I will get more and more emotional. It is hard to believe my life between 22 yards in the last 24 years is coming to an end. I would like to thank all the people who have helped me in my life to get here. I have a list in my hand, please forgive me if I miss out on a few names.
"First, I want to thank the most important person in my life, my father, who left me 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 mother, I don't how she dealt with such a naughty like guy me. She took care of me to be healthy. She started praying for me even before I started my career and I think those prayers gave my strength.
"In my school days, I used to stay with my uncle and aunt as my school was far away. They treated me like their son. They gave me enough food that I can play well.
"My eldest brother Nitin, he used to tell me, I know you'd do everything right and I have the confidence in you.
"My first cricket bat was presented to me by my sister Savita. A Kashmir Willow bat. She continues to fast when I bat.
"Ajit (elder brother), I don't what do I say about him. It all started from the age of 11, he took to Ramakant Achrekar sir, my coach. And my life changed. Even last night, Ajit called me and we were discussing my dismissal. Various things we agreed upon, my technique. I have had a lot of chat with him. If I had not done that, 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 took care of the children. Thanks for bearing with me for all the nonsense I've said. Thank you for all that you have done and it is the best partnership I have had in my life.
"Then Sara and Arjun who are two precious diamonds in my life. Daughter is 16 and son is 14, time has flown by. I wasn't able to be with them for the birthdays, annual days and sports days. Thanks for understanding all that, both of you have been so special to me. I've not spent enough time with you but I promise you the rest of 16 years and beyond is for you.
"My in-laws - Annabelle and Anand Mehta - have been supporting. I discuss various things with them, we have a strong family and thank you for allowing me to marry Anjali.
"There have been a lot of friends who have supported me. Leaving their work and coming to bowl at me when I called them. I thought my career was over when I was injured, but my friends called even at 3 AM and made me believe that it was not over.
"My career started at 11. My brother took me to Achrekar sir and that is the best thing to have happened to me. Sir would be taking me on his scooter all over Mumbai to ensure that I get enough match practice. On a lighter note, he has never said well played to me so that I don't get complacent.
"My cricket started right here at this ground (Wankhede Stadium). The dream was obviously to play for India. BCCI was fantastic, they believed in me at the age of 16 years and selected me.
"I have played with many senior cricketers, thanks to everyone for helping me out. I see, Rahul (Dravid), (VVS) Laxman, Sourav (Ganguly), Anil (Kumble) who is not here and my teammates, you guys are like my family. It is going to be difficult without that dressing room, sharing those special moments.
"When Dhoni gave me the 200th Test cap, I just said, we are all proud to be here as a team and I believe that you guys will serve this country in the right spirit and to the best of your abilities. I believe in you and all the best for your future. "Thanks to all the doctors, physios, without your special efforts, I couldn't have been fit. I don't know how you all kept me in good shape.
"My dear friend, late Mark Mascarenhas, my first manager. Without him I couldn't have achieved all this. All those sponsorship deals etc.. Thanks for your support. I miss you.
"My manager Vinod Nayudu, he's more like my family. He's given me so much time leaving his family to work for me.
"In the school days when I played well, the media backed me a lot. You've been doing that till now. Thank you to all of you, all those photographers.
"I thank all the people who supported me a lot. Whether I scored a 0 or a 100. I have met a lot of people who do all sorts of things for me, thank you for all that you have done. Chants of 'Sachin…Sachin' Especially, 'Sachin… Sachin..' that will be reverberating in my ears till I breath. Thank you very much. I am sorry if I have missed out on anything. Good bye."
Indian captain M.S. Dhoni called Sachin a role model."I think it's the biggest match in the cricketing history. It's something we won't witness again. Thank you Sachin for being such a role model for all of us. Not only as a cricketer, but the way he has led his life, he is a role model for all," said Dhoni at the post-match awards presentation ceremony.