Conferred with the honorary rank of Group Captain by the IAF today, top Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar will soon fly the Sukhoi frontline fighter plane to earn his "wings" and realise a childhood wish.
Tendulkar, who became the first sportsperson to be honoured with a honorary rank by the IAF and the first with no aviation background to get this recognition, said he had wanted to fly the Sukhoi for long.
He had in 1996 taken a joy ride on Italian-made Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 `Impalla` military jet of the South African Air Force and cherished that experience.
Tendulkar, 37, was formally "welcomed into the Air Force family" by IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik in the presence of Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh.
Naik, who piped the Group Captain rank on Tendulkar`s shoulders and took the first formal salute from the cricketer, told reporters that he was scheduling a training flight on the Sukhoi for Tendulkar so that he could earn his "wings".
In 2008, India`s World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev had received the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Territorial Army.
"It`s a great pleasure and honour to come here and to be honoured by IAF. This a very important day for me and I will remember this my entire life. I cannot say this is a dream come true, but it was only wishful thinking and it has come true," Tendulkar said after receiving the honour.
"I`m extremely proud to be a part of IAF. I want to urge the youth to join air force and serve the nation. Chase your dreams, because dreams do come true," Tendulkar said.
Noting that as a teenager, he was fascinated by superbikes and fighter planes, Tendulkar said he was "very scared" when he took the first joy ride on Impalla, particularly after the pilot told him on the procedures to eject out of the plane in an emergency.
He also joked that he was concerned because if he did not follow the ejection procedures properly, it would mean injuring his elbow, a trouble that has dogged him in his cricketing career for long now.
The world`s best batsman said to be a completely professional sportspersons, one need to have "commitment, concentration and dedication."
"But that came naturally for air warriors in the IAF," he said, applauding the IAF`s efforts to secure the country`s frontiers during war and coming to the rescue of the civilians at times of crises and disasters.
"All that I can do to come as close as looking like an air warrior is to wear my Aviator sunglasses," he said triggering peals of laughter among the audience.