Legendary athlete Milkha Singh on Saturday congratulated Sachin Tendulkar after he brought the curtain down on a glorious career and said the iconic cricketer deserved to be conferred with the Bharat Ratna.
"He deserved it. Finally, a sportsperson will get this award. With this, it will pave the way for other sportspersons who can now hope to get the highest recognition for their efforts and bringing glory to their country," the 'Flying Sikh' told PTI.
Milkha said that his fight with the government over the years has been that sportspersons should be given due recognition for their achievements as they are the "true ambassadors" of the nation.
"The government should start giving due recognition to its sporting heroes so that the coming generation feels inspired," the 83-year-old said over phone.
Milkha, however, also said that while Tendulkar deserved the honour, it would have been good if hockey legend Dhyan Chand too had been given this award.
"Dhyan Chand also deserved to be given a Bharat Ratna, but he has not been given. Hockey is our national game and Dhyan Chand took it to glorious heights and brought so much glory to our nation. If they have given it to Tendulkar, I think Chand too deserves it," he said.
89-year-old hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr also congratulated Tendulkar.
"I congratulate Sachin. The Bharat Ratna award is well deserved and a timely recognition. He is an inspiration to coming generations," the Olympian said.
Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra, who is currently training in Munich, also heaped praise on Tendulkar for being chosen for the country's highest civilian award.
Bindra, the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold, said he was thrilled to know that Tendulkar had been chosen for the award.
He said that it's a great honour that a sportsperson had been chosen for such an award, and the batting legend deserved it.
Meanwhile Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda congratulated Tendulkar and eminent scientist C N R Rao for being selected for the Bharat Ratna.
"Sachin is an icon who has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports. His achievements in the field of cricket are unmatched and his spirit of sportsmanship exemplary," Hooda said.
Punjab's deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the state's sports minister, too congratulated Tendulkar.
In a statement issued here on Saturday, Badal said that the celebrated cricketer has been rightly chosen for the highest civilian award.
"A living legend, who will continue inspiring millions across the globe, has played cricket across the world and won glory for our country. He has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports," said Badal."