<i>'Cricket first, then …'</i>
Batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar said Tuesday he was "honoured" to be nominated to India's parliament but stressed that cricket would remain his priority as long as he keeps playing.
Last week, Tendulkar was offered one of the 12 seats in the upper house of parliament that are reserved for those who have distinguished themselves in various fields such as the arts, sciences or social services.
"When you get nominated because of your contribution in your field, it's an honour. I was excited to be nominated," Tendulkar, 39, told a televised press event in Pune in western India.
"I don't think I will stop [playing] cricket and go straight into politics. I will keep playing cricket. Cricket is my life and will always be," he added.
Tendulkar has not formally accepted his nomination, but such honours are rarely handed out without the prior agreement of the nominee.
It is unclear exactly when Tendulkar might take up his seat.
The "Little Master's" nomination has raised eyebrows in India, with questions over how the cricketer, who has previously steered clear of politics, could balance his sporting commitments with his duties as an MP.
Some former players have also wondered if the batsman may lose his universal popularity in India as the proposal to nominate him came from the ruling Congress party.
Opposition parties were quick to criticise the move as an attempt by the beleaguered government to distract attention from its difficulties over a series of graft scandals and accusations of policy paralysis.
"What is Tendulkar going to do in the Rajya Sabha? He has no scope there," Bal Thackeray, head of the regional Shiv Sena party, told reporters in Mumbai.
Tendulkar, however, stressed that his nomination had nothing to do with politics.
"I have played cricket for 22 and a half years. And I understand that I was nominated because of this reason. I am not a politician," he said.
"There are many responsibilities on me. I would definitely like to contribute in the field of sports because that is my expertise," the player added.
Tendulkar has played more Tests (188) and one-day internationals (463) than any other player since his debut in 1989.
He is the highest run-getter in both forms of the game and in March became the first batsman to complete 100 international centuries -- 51 in Tests and 49 in one-dayers.
The batsman is currently playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, a franchise-based Twenty20 competition.