DHARAMSALA: Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin says Sachin Tendulkar deserves to be conferred with the Bharat Ratna, but wants hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand to be the first sportsperson to be bestowed with the country's top civilian honour.
"Sachin should be conferred with Bharat Ratna honour. I have never said no to this but hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand should be the first sportsperson to be conferred the award," Azhar said on Friday.
"Dhyan Chand played under British Raj and one should take into account the kind of atmosphere he played under. No proper hockey stick was there...no proper grounds were there.
"If you look at his achievements under that particular period, he should be the first one to be conferred with the honour. He was a great player," he said on the sidelines of a an exhibition match between the Indian and British Parliamentarians.
The 38-year-old Tendulkar has to his name most of the batting records in Test and ODI cricket, including being the highest run-scorer and century maker in both formats.
Tendulkar scored his 100th international century against Bangladesh during the Asia Cup in March.
Asked about the retirement of Tendulkar, Azhar said, "He is serving the game for the last 22 to 23 years. Let him plan his own retirement...give him that freedom. If it's his decision that he does not want to retire, we should respect that and move on."