Cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestling star Vinesh Phogat, along with three others, are now in line for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. The award selection committee sprung a surprise by recommending as many as five names for the highest sporting honour of the country. Remaining athletes recommended are women’s hockey captain Rani Rampal, TT icon Manika Batra and Paralympics gold medallist T Mariyappan.
If cleared, Rohit Sharma will become the fourth cricketer to be conferred with the prestigious award. Rohit starred for India at the last World Cup and scored most runs in ODIs in 2019. Past recipients of the awards are Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
29 Athletes Recommended for Arjuna
Further, a whopping 29 names were recommended for the Arjuna Award by the 12-member committee. The list is now subject to sports minister Kiren Rijuju’s approval.
In a change of tradition, the winners will be conferred on August 29 in-a-first virtual ceremony due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The Arjuna recommendation list includes Indian pacer Ishant Sharma, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, 100m star Dutee Chand, shooters Saurabh Chaudhury and Manu Bhaker, archer Atanu Das, boxers Manish Kaushik and Lovlina Borgohain, kabaddi star Deepak Hooda, tennis doubles ace Divij Sharan, shuttlers Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
In the past, such a huge list was only seen in a Commonwealth Games or Asian Games year. The high number of medal winners at these events made it a difficult task for the committee to exclude someone.
For instance, post-2018 Commonwealth Games and Asiad, as many as 20 athletes were recommended for the Arjuna. That year Indian skipper Virat Kohli and weightlifting star Mirabai took home the Khel Ratna.
However, with no major tournament in the COVID-19 pandemic-hit 2020, the awards committee has probably set a bad precedence. Also, with the online self-nomination procedure now in place, the number of athletes is set to increase in the future. Not to forget that 2021 is also an Olympic year.
Rules suggest a maximum of 15 names for recommendation
Interestingly, as per rules, not more than 15 awards could be given in a calendar year. Unless the sportspersons perform well at the Olympics, CWG, Asiad or any major event in the year. The recommendation must be backed up with proper justification and approval of the sports minister.
One can still argue that the list is longer because of the inclusion of Indian sports like kho-kho and mallakhamb in the list. And also that every athlete in the list thoroughly deserves the award. However, it is a point worth pondering about that recommending so many will only make these awards less lustrous.
Jaspal Rana in line for Dronacharya
For the Dronacharya award, as many as five names have been recommended compared to last year’s three. Former shooting star and current coach of teen sensation Manu Bhaker, Jaspal Rana is named in the list. The remaining recommendations are, along with junior hockey coach Jude Felix and Yogesh Malviya (mallakhamb), Gaurav Khanna (para-badminton), Jaspal Rana (shooting), Kuldeep Handoo (wushu).
In its lifetime category, the recommendations are Dharmendra Tiwari (archery), Purshottam Rai (athletics), Shiv Singh (boxing), Romesh Pathania (hockey), KK Hooda (kabaddi), Vijay Munishwar (para powerlifting), Naresh Kumar (tennis), OP Dahiya (wrestling).