'Dhoni is deserving recipient of Khel Ratna' | cricket | Hindustan Times
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'Dhoni is deserving recipient of Khel Ratna'

The chairman of the Arjuna Award selection committee says the ODI captain is a deserving recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

cricket Updated: Aug 06, 2008 14:51 IST

Hailing Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the "backbone of Indian cricket", chairman of the Arjuna Award selection committee Milkha Singh said the ODI and Twenty20 captain is a deserving recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

Dhoni was on Monday conferred with the award, making him only the second cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar to be bestowed the country's highest sporting honour.

"From my side I tried my best and gave the award to whoever deserved. Four or five candidates were in contention for the award but Dhoni was the best among the lot. The whole country wanted Dhoni to get the award," Milkha Singh said on Tuesday night on the sidelines of a book release function.

The 'Flying Sikh' also said the decision to confer the award to Dhoni was taken unanimously by the selection committee.

"He has done tremendously well after coming to the national team. He is the backbone of Indian cricket. The decision to give Dhoni the award has been taken with full support of all members in the selection committee," he stated.

Milkha Singh also brushed aside reports that Indian ODI skipper's application was received late by the Sports Ministry.

"The Sports Ministry has told me that they have received Dhoni's application before the deadline of July 27, but due to some internal hazards they were not able to trace the application. However, they later extended the deadline by a day or two," he said.

Although he and his colleagues in the selection committee decided to confer the Khel Ratna Award to Dhoni, Milkha Singh was quick to point out that cricket does not appeal him like Olympic sports.

"The whole country is after cricket but I am little bit against the game because I think the popularity of cricket has declined the standard of Olympic sports in the country."

He also revealed that after being appointed as the chairman of the selection committee, he was under constant pressure from all quarters of the sporting fraternity.

"I was under a lot of pressure. I used to get 200 to 300 calls every day saying that please give the Arjuna Award to him or her," Milkha Singh said.