The Awards Committee, under the chairmanship of former India cricket skipper Kapil Dev, has not found any of the six players, who had applied for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, suitable for the country’s highest sporting honour.This is only the second time since the inception of the award in 1991-92 that there will be no Khel Ratna recipient when the honours are bestowed on outstanding sportspersons on August 29.
Golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, winner of several European and Asian Tour titles, para-athlete Devendra Jhajariya, who bagged gold in the Paralympic Games and World Championship, discus thrower Vikas Gowda, winner of medals in the Asian and Commonwealth Games, Krishna Poonia, who broke the 52-year-old gold medal jinx in the CWG athletics event in 2010, shuttler PV Sindhu, winner of bronze in the World Championship last year, and tennis player Somdev Devvarman, who has won multiple medals in the Asian Games, were the six contenders for the Khel Ratna. But the panel averred that their achievements were not enough to warrant the prestigious award.
The committee has recommended 15 sportspersons. Para-athlete HN Girisha, who won gold in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, has also been recommended for the award. Last year, his name was not considered either for the Arjuna or the Khel Ratna, as he had applied only for the latter.
His application was rejected on the ground that no one could get the Khel Ratna before the Arjuna. Just one player till date — Mahendra Singh Dhoni — has got the Khel Ratna without being conferred the Arjuna.
Despite a couple of hockey players, in both the men and women’s section, applying for the Arjuna, the committee did not find anyone suitable for the honour. A few hockey players who had applied for the Arjuna had bigger achievements compared to athletes such as Tintu Luka, but their credentials were ignored. Tushar Khandkar and Shivender were part of the India team that won silver in the 2010 CWG and bronze in the Asian Games. The women’s team captain, Ritu Rani, and Rani Rampal, who played a pivotal role in the historic bronze-medal win in the junior World Championship last year, were also ignored.
Boxer Manoj Kumar too felt his credentials had been ignored, as his achievements include gold in the 2010 CWG and bronze in the 2013 Asian Championship. “As per the new point system, my rating is higher than the other boxer, but I don’t know why I have been ignored for the Arjuna,” said Manoj. “It is a simple mathematics. My gold in the CWG and bronze in the Asian meet got me 25 and seven points, respectively. So, with 32 points, I had the highest number of points among all the boxers who had applied.”