In a glittering ceremony in Dubai on Saturday night, Sachin Tendulkar became the first recipient of the Wisden India Outstanding Achievement award. He was presented with a beautifully designed trophy at the first of six special dinners that will be held across the world.
In Dubai, not far from the stadium where he played one of his most memorable innings, the Desert Storm that overwhelmed Shane Warne and Australia at Sharjah in 1998, Tendulkar was at his candid best, answering an array of questions from Alan Wilkins, the former Glamorgan bowler who is now one of the faces of ESPN-Star Sports in Asia.
The event was organised by FidelisWorld, and Anand Krishnan, its executive chairman, welcomed Tendulkar to the dinner before presenting him with the trophy. Made from crystal, it features a cricket ball resting on the open pages of a book. The 49 One-Day International centuries that Tendulkar has made are listed on one side, and his 51 Test hundreds on the other.
In addition to Wisden India, FidelisWorld is also the driving force behind United Sikkim Football Club, whose rapid rise to the first division of the I-League has been one of heartwarming stories in India's otherwise depressing football landscape. Baichung Bhutia, who went back to his roots to captain and mentor United Sikkim, was also in Dubai and led the applause as Tendulkar spoke openly of the pressures he had to deal with in the days and months leading up to his 100th international century.
The black-tie event, which featured stand-up comedy, a sit-down dinner and a silent auction for some Tendulkar memorabilia, was the first of its kind and a relaxed Tendulkar spoke of subjects as diverse as his favourite innings, the matchwinning fourth-innings hundred against England at Chennai in December 2008, balancing play and personal life, and the influence that his late father had in shaping his career.
The Celebration Series will comprise five more such dinners over the next three years. It gives fans an opportunity to meet the master, interact with him and listen to him talk about the joys, tribulations and twists in what has been an unparalleled career. Singapore is likely to host the next one.