Indian batting icon Sachin Tendulkar has been inducted into the International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame alongside South African pace legend Allan Donald.
Joining Tendulkar and Donald in the Hall of Fame was two-time World Cup-winning Australian woman cricketer Cathryn Fitzpatrick.
"It is an honour to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, which cherishes the contribution of cricketers over generations. They have all contributed to the growth and popularity of the game and I am happy to have done my bit," Tendulkar said at the induction ceremony held here on Sunday night.
He thanked his family and coach, who has supported him in his journey in international cricket for close to two and half decades.
"On this occasion, I would like to thank all of those who were by my side over a long international career. My parents, brother Ajit and wife Anjali have been pillars of strength while I was lucky to have someone like coach Ramakant Achrekar as an early guide and mentor," the maestro said.
Tendulkar, the most prolific batsman in history, was inducted immediately after becoming eligible for induction, which requires that a player should have played his last international match at least five years before.
The 46-year-old former right-hand batsman is regarded the greatest to have played the game along with Sir Donald Bradman and remains the top run-accumulator in both Tests and ODIs.
Tendulkar, who retired in November 2013, tallied 15,921 runs in Tests and 18,426 in ODIs, both of which remain records. He is the sixth Indian to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
"I am also thankful to all my captains, fellow players and the BCCI and the MCA administrators over the years for their support and for making me enjoy the game so much and for so long. I thank the ICC for this appreciation of my cricket career and I am happy to note that cricket continues to grow with three popular formats."
The 52-year-old Donald is one of the finest bowlers to have played the game and had 330 Test and 272 ODI wickets to his credit before calling it quits in 2003.
Fitzpatrick is the second highest wicket-taker of all time in women's cricket with 180 ODI scalps and 60 in Tests. As a coach, she guided the Australian women's team to three World Cup titles.
Donald, known as the 'White Lightening', was arguably South Africa's fastest bowler ever and finished with 330 Test and 272 ODI wickets. He is one of the players credited with South Africa's success in the game after their return to international cricket in 1991.
Fitzpatrick, the eighth woman to win the award, was the fastest bowler in women's cricket for a period of 16 years, ending her career with 180 wickets in 109 matches, a record then. She helped Australia win two ICC Women's Cricket World Cups and finished with 60 wickets in 13 Tests.
"The biggest shock when you open an e-mail like that - it says congratulations Allan Donald, you have been inducted in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame! It hits you, it hits you quite hard because it is a prestigious award and something that you can't take lightly. I thank the ICC for the huge honour," Donald said on his induction.
"It all immediately takes you back to where you started. The reflection is of such a nature that everything that you have done in your career since you were a little boy starts to creep into your head. There are so many people to thank who have influenced my life “as mentors, as coaches," he said.
Donald didn't forget one of his earlier coaches Ewie Cronje, disgraced former South Africa skipper late Hansie Cronje's father. Cronje and Donald were very close during their playing days.
"If I start with Free State cricket back in the day, then the legendary Hansie Cronje's dad Mr Ewie Cronje, helped me through school and college cricket and then there was my uncle Des Donald who was very hard on me. Bob Woolmer was a mentor, we clicked in international cricket and he showed me the road to success."
Fitzpatrick on her part recollected the golden moments of her career on receiving the honour.
"Looking back, I can think of many highlights, which include winning the World Cup in 1997 and 2005, but it is a tour of England in 1998 where the Women's Ashes was conceived that stands out," she said.
"Playing five ODIs followed by three Test Matches on a tour lasting six weeks was a time that I felt I was just a cricketer and didn't have to combine work alongside playing. I have had many people over the journey who have guided me as coaches, team-mates, administrators and friends and I would like to thank them all."
ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said: "It is a great honour for us to announce the 2019 inductees into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Sachin, Allan and Cathryn are three of the finest players to ever grace our game and are deserved additions to the Hall of Fame.
"On behalf of the ICC, I would like to congratulate all three players, who enrich the list of all-time greats already members of this select club."