Auckland: Indian skipper MS Dhoni today paid rich tribute to retired batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, who was conferred the Bharat Ratna, saying it is an honour well deserved for the "ideal role model".
Tendulkar, who was bestowed the honour yesterday by President Pranab Mukherjee, retired from all forms of cricket in November, playing his last and 200th Test in Mumbai against the West Indies.
"It is fantastic news. It has happened first time for a sportsperson," said Dhoni, ahead of the first Test against New Zealand, starting in Auckland on Thursday.
"We missed it to some extent, given that we are not in India. As a civilian, you cannot get a higher honour than this. He definitely deserves it. There is not anything too different one can say when talking about him," he added.
Dhoni lauded Tendulkar for his on-field exploits and off-field conduct.
"The way he has handled himself, not only on the field, but off the field as well, he is the ideal role model. The kind of pressures that are there in Indian cricket, he has handled them very well throughout his career.
"And the kind of performances he has given since the time he debuted, he has been fantastic. It is an honour well deserved," said Dhoni.