Continuing with the felicitations lined up for retiring Sachin Tendulkar, the Mumbai Cricket Association on Monday honoured the iconic batsman ahead of his 200th and final Test by naming its Kandivili Ground after him in the presence of a host of political bigwigs.
The 40-year-old veteran, who would be retiring after the second and final Test against the West Indies here from Thursday, was given a fresh round of applause by the MCA ahead of what is turning out to be an epic curtain call.
"I appreciate not just this evening but the last 24 years. Thank you for all the respect, all the love, all the care that you have showered me with," said a beaming Tendulkar when he took to the stage amid loud cheers and applause by the attendees, including his teammates and visiting West Indian team.
"It felt special to read my name on the entry of the (MCA) club. It feels good as I am not used to it. I didn't expect this. It was a humble experience. I thank MCA for this kind gesture," he said, referring to the renamed Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana Club.
Tendulkar used the occasion to express his gratitude towards MCA for making its facilities available to him whenever he asked for it.
"I want to thank the MCA for making the nets available for me at any time I wanted. I just needed to make a phone call to get it," he said.
The Mumbaikar dwelled on his cricketing career which has spanned an incredible 24 years.
"To play for India has been truly memorable, I think every step was different and every tour required different preparations," he said.
Tendulkar said that the MCA had accommodated his requests at odd hours, too, for practice.
"A big big thank you to MCA for this kind gesture. My association with Mumbai Cricket started almost 29 years ago, when I first entered in under-15 tournament. And from there on, it has been a fantastic journey," Tendulkar said.
"Whenever I wanted to practice, wherever I wanted to practice, MCA made sure that I had the facilities, I had the right pitches, the right bowlers, to practice and prepare myself first in junior level cricket for Mumbai and then go on to achieve my dream to play for India.
"A few years ago there wasn't the MCA BKC Club. And practising on monsoons was a little tough because there were no indoor nets. I used to actually go out on playgrounds and practice even while it was raining. It was a lot of fun with my friends. We pals used to get together and practice.
"In the last few years after the MCA Bandra Club was there, beautiful facility of indoor nets was available to us at any time," he added.
Tendulkar said the Kandivali club would encourage sporting culture in the country.
"Talking about this club, I think this is the perfect platform looking at our Indian population. Most of our population is on the younger side. To continue to build that sporting culture in our nation is really important. That can only happen with the right guidance, coaching, proper training programmed for the next generation."
"This is a wonderful facility. Mr (Sharad) Pawar (MCA president) has mentioned that this ground is free for anyone and everyone to come and play and make the most of all the facilities available."
"I think it is a great platform for next generation to make use of these facilities and bring all the laurels to our nation. That is my sincere hope and wish that all the guys make the most of it and bring smiles on our faces," he said.