Sachin Tendulkar revealed that Australia was his favourite overseas country for playing cricket and the SCG was his favourite venue.

“I can say publicly that away from India, Australia is the best spot I have enjoyed playing cricket and away from India my favourite ground is also Sydney. These two things are so dear to me that they have left me with fond memories; especially the SCG, where I got the chance to hold the bat used by Sir Don Bradman. It took me a step further in my liking for Australia and the SCG,” said Tendulkar, while thanking the Australian people and the Government of Australia for conferring upon him the honorary membership of the Order of Australia.

The award was presented to him by Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for Arts, at the Taj Lands End on Tuesday. Crean also presented him a stump painted by an Australian.

Overwhelming

“It’s overwhelming. I take this opportunity to thank the PM of Australia, (Julia) Gillard, Minister Crean, the Australian High Commissioner (to India), Peter Varghese, and the Consul General. How can I forget the people of Australia who have supported me over the years...I thank all of them for this huge honour.’’

Tendulkar recalled that his association with Australia started in 1985.

“My association with Australia started not in the 1991-92 series, but in 1985 when I was 12 years old. Watching those fantastic day-night matches on television, I started dreaming about going there (Australia) and playing cricket. It turned into reality in 1991-92.

“How many times will a young cricketer [like I was then] get three-and-half months in Australia...I was 18 then and playing the top side in the world. The tour completely changed me as a cricketer; it was a critical moment of my career,” Tendulkar said.

“We all know that Australians are fierce competitors. When you do well against them, they shower you with compliments. That’s what happened to me; I did reasonably well, scoring a couple of hundreds.

This was followed by a tri-series which also had West Indies, another tough opponent. Those three-and-half months changed me completely and I thought I was ready to play against any attack in the world.

“The Australians made a contribution in turning me into a tougher cricketer. One has to be there and experience how cricket is played down under. After the series came the mega event in the form of the 1992 World Cup…the kind of atmosphere I experienced there for a month was truly fantastic.’’

Most memorable trip

Tendulkar said that his most memorable trip of Australia was when he was invited to wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday. “I was in the middle of a national camp in Chennai and the BCCI graciously agreed to send me to Australia for three or four days. I had the opportunity to meet Sir Don along with (Shane) Warne.

“Both of us were so tense that we did not know how to react. We were driving to Sir Don’s place discussing the questions we could ask Sir Don. I told Warney that it was his turn and since he is an Australian he should know better. I told him you start and I will take over.

“But the moment we reached there (Sir Don’s house), we were struck by his personality and allowed him to talk as much as he wanted to; we just wanted to listen to him. He felt that the standard of cricket was better.

“The natural question asked to him was how much he would have averaged (if he were to be playing then)...he said “maybe 70.”

The natural reaction was why only 70, why not 99.94? He said “come on son, it’s not bad for a 90-year-old man!’”

Tendulkar said that the 2007 tour was a memorable one. “It was because every time I went to bat, the entire stadium gave me a standing ovation.

“It was touching and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Last trip? No way!

“On a lighter note, a friend asked how it felt. I replied that it felt great, but was laughing inside. You know why? Because they all thought that it was my last trip to Australia. I am glad I was there again.

“How could I have not been there? I came across so many Australians who said: “Australia is going to thrash you, but we want you to score a hundred.

“Such is the reception and affection I have received from the Australians, and that will be with me forever.’’

Before signing off, Tendulkar said: “I know we will be playing a home series soon against the Australians. It will again be closely fought and played in the spirit of the game.

“The award really means a lot to me and I may go to Australia, either as a cricketer or tourist, because I love that country.’’

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