Mumbai,Nov 6: Veteran batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who was today conferred with the Order of Australia, said the first trip Down Under way back in 1991-92 changed him as a cricketer and pointed out that the Aussies had a role in his transformation into a "tougher" player.
"It (the 1991-92 tour of Australia) completely changed me as a cricketer. It was a critical moment of my career. Three and half months changed me completely.
"I thought I was ready to play against any attack in the world and I can say that Australia has had some contribution in that to transform me into a tougher cricketer," Tendulkar said after receiving the honour at a function.
He said the Aussies, who are known for their mental toughness, also appreciate quality performace.
"We all know Australians are fierce competitors but when you do well against them, they shower on you all the compliments. And that is what happened to me. I scored reasonably well and scored a couple of hundreds there (in the Test series).
"That (the Test rubber) was followed by the tri-series against the West Indies, another tough opposition", he said.
Tendulkar further said he dreamt of playing in Australia ever since he was a 12-year-old.
"The association with Australia started long time ago and not in 1991. To me it started way back in 85 when I was 12 years old watching those fantastic day-night matches on television. I started dreaming that one day I want to go there and play cricket. It turned into a reality in 1991-92," he said.
The 39-year-old batsman got nostalgic when he recalled the moment when he met Sir Don Bradman and admitted that he was very nervous.
"The most memorable trip to Australia was when I was asked to come and wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday. I was in the middle of a national camp in Chennai and the BCCI graciously agreed to send me.
Tendulkar recollected that he was tense prior to meeting the late Australian legend Bradman.
"I met Sir Don along with (Shane) Warnie. We both were so tense, we didn't know how to react. We were driving to his place thinking about what questions to ask him. I said it's your turn. You are an Australian you should know better. I told him you start and I will take over a little bit later", he said.
"But the moment we went there we were struck by his personality. We just stood beside him and allowed him to talk as much as we could because we wanted to hear him. Sir Don had said the standard of playing in cricket was better now.
"The natural question was what would you have averaged in today's cricket. He said maybe 70... The natural reaction was why only 70, why not 99.94, he said come on son it is not bad for a 90 year-old man. That trip was truly a memorable one," he said.
According to Tendulkar, outside India, he enjoys playing in Australia and Sydney is his favourite ground.
"It is a wonderful spot to play cricket. I have to say publicly that away from India, it is the best spot I have enjoyed playing cricket. And away from India, Sydney is my favourite ground.
"I think these two things are so dear to me and have left me with such fond memories, especially SCG where I got the opportunity to hold Sir Don's bat which he had used.
"It takes a step further in my liking for Australia and SCG. I have met so many Australians who have said Australia is going to thrash you but we want you to score a century."
He added that the 2007 tour was also a memorable one for him as he received standing ovation at each stadium.
"The 2007 trip was very special because wherever I went, whenever I went to bat, the entire stadium gave me standing ovation. It was touching, something which will always stay with me for the rest of my life.
"On a lighter note, a friend of mine asked how does it feel, I said it feels great but I laugh in my mind because they all feel this is my last trip to Australia. I am glad I was there again. After 2007, how I couldn't be there in Australia in 2011?"
Coming back to that maiden cricket tour to Australia some two decades ago, Tendulkar said, "One had to be there and experience how cricket is played down under.
"Then the mega event of the World Cup in 1992, we were there for a month. And the kind of atmosphere I saw there was truly fantastic.
Tendulkar further said that he will be there in Australia to play cricket or as a tourist on his next visit.
"Who knows I might be again going to Australia to play cricket or just as a tourist, because I love that spot."
On the home series against Australia, he said, "I know we will be playing a series in a couple of months, which will be closely fought and fiercely fought in the right spirit."
Considered the finest batsman in contemporary cricket, Tendulkar has amassed 15,533 runs in 190 Tests besides his mammoth 18,426 runs in 463 ODIs.