The Sports Ministry’s selection committee has picked some brilliant sporting stars for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. All those, who have been selected, do deserve the honour. But what about the other deserving sports figures? Are these awards meant for encouraging sportspersons or discouraging them? But the announcement of this year’s Khel Ratna award has discouraged and disappointed many of the stalwarts of the sporting world.
The 12-member committee, which came out with certain names for the awards, does not seem to have followed the criteria with a practical approach. The decision of the committee suggests that it has gone by the ‘quantity’ (number of medals) not the ‘quality’ while selecting names for the award.
Let’s discuss it with some instances. Take for instance the Commonwealth Games (CWG). These games are such where some players are of high level and standard, but some sportspersons’ level is low. In some sporting events, the standard of CWG is supposed to be just a bit higher than the national championship. Table Tennis is one such game in CWG. The countries which have high standards in this game are not the members of the commonwealth group so they do not participate in the CWG. In such a situation, our players sail through winning several medals including golds. And, it becomes challenging for these winners to get even a single medal in the Asian Games.
Table tennis player Manika Batra won the Commonwealth Games gold medal and Asian Games bronze in women’s singles in 2018. She got silver in doubles and bronze in mixed doubles in CWG. It looks like she has won so many medals, but she won all in just CWG, barring a bronze in Asian Games. The committee decided on the basis of number (quantity) of medals, whereas there are several athletes of CWG who are of much higher standard.
For example, after Milkha Singh won a gold medal in CWG of Cardiff in 1958, India had to wait so long to realise its gold dream in CWG which could be possible only in 2010 in New Delhi games. Neeraj Chopra won golds in CWG and also in Asian Games. He is also a strong contender for the Tokyo Olympics medal apart from being Junior World Champion. But, unfortunately, he was rejected and Manika was picked just on the basis of number of medals she won in CWG.
Similarly, on what basis can you reject boxer Amit Panghal? It’s unfortunate that the boxer, who wins silver in World Championship and gold in Asian games and Asian Championship, is rejected. Was he punished for winning silver in CWG? While it is a fact that the standard of boxing is quite high in CWG too!
It is a fact that sportspersons such as Neeraj Chopra and Amit Panghal are strong contenders for medals in the Tokyo Olympics. If they are sidelined despite their superb performances in the last three years, then their mission to win medals in the Tokyo Olympics can get serious setbacks. Sikanth Kidambi emerged as a No. 1 player in these three years and won CWG gold also, but he could not be nominated for Khel Ratna despite all that.
Selection of Rohit Sharma and Vinesh Phogat for these awards is a welcome decision. Particularly, Rohit Sharma gave white ball cricket a new meaning. When he got a chance to play as an opener in red ball cricket, he proved himself to be an emerging star by scoring centuries in both the innings of the test in Visakhapatnam and double century in Ranchi test.
Apart from this, he has several records to his credit that describe his talent more than anything else. He has to his credit three double centuries in ODI, world record of highest five centuries in a world cup, highest four centuries from India in T20 and seven centuries in ODI in just one year, taking his total to 1490 runs in all. As regards Vinesh, it is the honour for the award itself that it is going to him. She has qualified for the Olympics by winning a medal in the world championship in Astana of Kazakhstan. This wrestler has also won medals in Asian games and CWG. She was the best wrestler of Pre Wrestling League Season 1. In this league, she benefited even after losing to Chinese Sun Yanan twice. She learnt all the tactics of Chinese wrestlers even till the first round of Asian games and thereafter she defeated her easily and started the gold campaign. Likewise, Mariyappan Thangavelu won the gold medal in the high jump at Rio Paralympic. Thangavelu has been awarded with Padma Shri and Arjuna awards three years ago. Selection of such a sportsperson is the honour for the award itself.