Senior Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar was on Friday conferred with the Indian Air Force's honorary rank of Group Captain to honour his cricketing achievements and contributions to the nation.
Tendulkar is the first sportsperson to be conferred a rank by IAF and the first personality with no aviation background to receive the honour. In 2008, India's World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev had received the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Territorial Army.
Before being felicitated with the honorary rank, Tendulkar had gone through a process of familiarisation with the IAF and training in basic military practices and drills.
The 37-year-old Tendulkar was inducted into the Air Force as its brand ambassador with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik doing the honours in a glittering ceremony at the Air Force auditorium here.
"It's a great pleasure and honour to be honoured by IAF. It was a wishful thinking and it has come true today. I'm extremely proud to be a part of IAF. I want to urge the youth to join air force and serve the nation. So dream, because dreams do come true," Tendulkar said after receiving the honour.
Earlier, President Pratibha Patil had conferred the honorary rank of the IAF on the iconic batsman on June 23 this year. The rank was conferred on Tendulkar under the provision of granting honorary rank by Armed Forces to eminent personalities acknowledging their contribution towards the nation.
Till date, 21 eminent personalities have been granted honorary ranks by the IAF, the first being the Raja of Jawhar Yashwant Rao, who was conferred the Flight Lieutenant's rank in 1944. Industrialist J R D Tata was made an honorary Air Vice Marshal in 1974 and the last one to get such an honour in 1990 was industrialist-cum-aviator Vijaypat Singhania, who is now an honorary Air Commodore.
The IAF had, in January this year, mooted a proposal to confer the honorary rank of Group Captain on Tendulkar. IAF feels that besides the recognition, his association with it would motivate the younger generation to join the Air Force to serve the country.
Naik said the batting legend's association with IAF will help in making the youth aware about the Air Force. "Youth admires him (Tendulkar). I think the youth will get inclined towards the Air Force. What youth will do in future we can't say but the indications that we are getting from school students ... we are hopeful.
"To take corrective measures in reforming the IAF is my duty and Sachin's association will help in spreading awareness (about the Air Force)," Naik said.