The Centre's decision to modify the eligibility criteria for the Bharat Ratna to include sportspersons in its ambit was widely appreciated on Friday.
The country's highest civilian award, which was earlier limited to the fields of art, literature, science and public services, will now recognise performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.
The Prime Minister's approval to the change came on a recommendation by Union sports minister Ajay Maken.
Maken said the two names that immediately came to his mind were, "the wizard of hockey Major Dhyan Chand" and "run machine Sachin Tendulkar".
Tendulkar has been awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.
BJP leader Prakash Javdekar and Congress MP Rajeev Shukla also joined fans in demanding the award for Tendulkar.
Government officials, however, suggested that the ace batsman might have to wait since Dhyan Chand might be the first awardee.
Dhyan Chand, who led India to victory in hockey in the 1928 Holland Olympics, in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1936 Germany Olympics, has only been awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956.
Former Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, who demanded that Dhyan Chand should be the first sportsperson to receive the Bharat Ratna, also credited Tendulkar for moving the spotlight on sportspersons.
Only 41 individuals including former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi have been awarded the Bharat Ratna since it was instituted in 1954.