One of the greatest batsmen of all time, the iconic Sachin Tendulkar was voted Cricketer of the Generation on Friday as he staved off stiff competition from spin legend Shane Warne and all-rounder par excellence Jacques Kallis at the ESPNcricinfo awards function in Mumbai.
The award is meant to honour the most outstanding cricketer between the years 1993 and 2013, and the occasion also marked the 20th anniversary celebrations for the cricket website.
"I am speechless, honestly," said Tendulkar after receiving the award.
"Thanks to ESPNcricinfo for considering me worthy enough. When Martin (Crowe) and Rahul (Dravid) both spoke about me, I didn't know how to react."
Tendulkar has been the most successful batsman of his generation, having set innumerable records in both Tests and ODIs.
He rewrote some of the most coveted batting records, including those for most Test runs and Test hundreds, and for most ODI runs and ODI hundreds.
The Mumbaikar is the only cricketer to score hundred international centuries.
On Kallis, Tendulkar said, "I first saw him in 1996. He looked an okay player and I thought, this guy could become a decent allrounder. But over a period of time, how he changed his batting technique and worked on his bowling was incredible.
"Kallis used to walk with his head down and I used to tell my teammates that once he has realised which way the blades of the grass are, he is going to make you pay."
Talking about Warne, he said, "I first played against Warne in 1992 and you could make out he had the talent, but he wasn't consistent enough in the first game.
"The second time I faced him was in Sri Lanka and I was beaten by his spin. I charged him next ball and was lucky to get away. Warne came up to me and tried to charge me up, but I turned towards square leg and ignored him. Post match, I asked him, 'Warne, what were you trying to say?' From then onwards, we became good friends."
Tendulkar ended his glorious 24-year international career last November, signing off with an elegant 74 against the West Indies in his final Test innings.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma won the awards for best batting performances in Tests and ODIs while Mitchell Johnson and Shahid Afridi bagged the top prize in Test bowling and ODI bowling, respectively, in the seventh annual ESPNcricinfo Awards.
Dhawan, who slammed the fastest century as a debutant scoring 187 against Australia, got the award for best Test batting. His opening partner Rohit Sharma won the award in ODIs for his brilliant 209 against Australia in Bangalore. He beat the likes of Virat Kohli and Kiwi top-order batsman Martin Guptill.
Aussie speedster Johnson, who has been at the peak of his form, was awarded with the best bowling performance in Test cricket for his match winning spell of seven for 40 on a flat wicket in Adelaide against arch-rivals England in the Ashes series.
Mercurial Pakistan player Shahid Afridi bagged the award for best bowling in ODIs, for his devastating spell of seven for 12 against the West Indies in the Carribean. Promising Indian pacer Mohammad Shami won the award for the best debutant that was voted by the fans, while Tarak Sinha got the award for contribution to cricket that was decided by a panel headed by former India captain Rahul Dravid.
Sinha is the first recipient of this award and he was recognised for producing 11 international cricketers and over 100 first-class cricketers.
Dravid got the cricket for good award for his support to other sports and taking up the role of mentor for India's Olympic prospects. Tendulkar said his 114 at Perth in 1992 was a game changer for him.
"Perth innings was a game changer for me because from that point onwards I thought I was ready to take on the world. I had a lot of belief on my ability, but that innings took it to next level." He also felt Test cricket is in safe hands.
"I still believe Test cricket is in good hands. If you see around the world, most matches have results, which is probably due to T20 too, so the formats are complementing each other."