Sachin Tendulkar has scored 3438 runs in 35 Tests against Australia. Eleven of his 51 Test hundreds have come against them as have 15 of his 65 half-centuries.

In ODIs, he has tormented them no less. In 71 games, he has scored 3077 runs, including nine hundreds and 15 half-centuries.

But despite the grief he has caused them, the sleepless nights he has given their bowlers and captains, the Australian government on Tuesday conferred on him the prestigious Order Of Australia (OOA).

The formal ceremony was conducted by Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts in the presence of Peter Varghese, Australia's High Commissioner to India. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced last month in New Delhi, that the cricketer would be honoured with the award.

Tendulkar, thus became the third Indian after Mother Teresa (1982) and Soli Sorabjee (2006) to be conferred with the OOA. He also became the fourth non-Australian cricketer to get the honour after West Indian greats Clive Lloyd (1985) and Garfield Sobers (2003), Brian Lara (2009).

'Overwhelmed' with the honour, Tendulkar was lavish in his praise of the Australian cricket fraternity who he has wooed since his twin hundreds (148, Sydney) and (114, Perth) as an 18-year-old in 1991-92. His romance with Australia though had begun six years earlier - in 1985.

"Watching those fantastic day and night matches on television, I started dreaming of playing cricket there. It turned into reality in 1991-92 . At 18, I was playing the top side in the world. It completely changed me as a cricketer."

The owner of most batting records in the game labelled the Australians as 'fierce competitors'. However, he also hailed them for being generous in their praise.

"When you do well against them, they shower you with compliments. Those three-and-half months changed me completely and I thought I was ready to play against any attack in the world. The Australians have contributed to making me a tougher cricketer."

Dressed in a crisp, deep blue blazer with a matching tie, Tendulkar, accompanied by wife Anjali, got a touch nostalgic as he narrated his best experiences Down Under.

"I was invited to wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday (1998) when I was in the middle of a national camp in Chennai. The BCCI graciously agreed to send me to Australia for three or four days. He felt the standards were better then and my natural question to him was how much would he have averaged in the modern era. He said maybe 70. I asked him why only 70 and not 99.94. His reply was, 'Son, it's not bad for a 90-year-old'".

Tendulkar, it seems, hasn't just improved as a batsman with age, he has also become a raconteur, who uses humour as well as his wrists.

"The 2007 tour was special for me, because wherever I went to bat, the entire stadium gave me a standing ovation. It's something that'll always stay with me. I told a friend, 'It feels great, but I feel like laughing because they think this is my last trip."

He also described Sydney as his favourite ground away from India and Australia as the best country to play cricket in after home.

Minister of arts Crene, who also presented Tendulkar a stump painted by indigenous artist Janice Murray along with the medal and certificate, hailed the cricketer for his philanthropy and for being a spokesperson for charities.

"Over the years, Australians have relished the chance to watch Sachin in action even if that meant Australia were beaten on the day. Our admiration is demonstrated in the numbers of fans who turned out last summer, greeting him with standing ovations whenever he came out to bat," he said.

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