Sachin, Prof Rao conferred Bharat Ratna

Iconic cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and eminent scientist Prof C N R Rao were today conferred with the country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna by President Pranab Mukherjee here.

Tendulkar, 40, who retired from international cricket on November 16 last year, is the first sportsman to be bestowed with the honour.

He is the only sitting Rajya Sabha member to be conferred with Bharat Ratna.

Tendulkar, attired in a black bandhgala suit, exchanged pleasantries with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries at the investiture ceremony lasting a little over six minutes at the chandeliered Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

It was attended by among others by Vice President Hamid Ansari, several Union ministers, Sachin's wife Anjali and daughter Sara.

"It is fantastic. It is more important than anything. Nothing compared to India honouring me," 79-year-old Rao told reporters after the award ceremony.

Tendulkar, who refused to take questions, said, "I will continue to bat for India. Even though my cricket has stopped, I will continue to bat for India and try my best to give people of India a reason to smile."

Rashtrapati Bhavan staff had a tough time controlling the gathering, many of whom wanted to shake hands with Tendulkar and take his autogragh on the booklet issued by the Home Ministry for the occasion.

Tendulkar and Rao, both of whom are recipients of Padma Vibhushan -- the country's second highest civilian honour, today joined a list of 41 eminent personalities who have been conferred with the award that is given in recognition of exceptional service of the highest order since it was instituted in 1954.

In a fitting finale to a record-breaking career spanning 24 years, Tendulkar, a former India Captain, was chosen for the prestigious award, after his farewell 200th Test against the West Indies in Mumbai on November 16, 2013.

An official statement had said Tendulkar has been a true Ambassador of India in the world of sports and his achievements in cricket are unparallelled, the records set by him unmatched, and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him, exemplary.

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