In the midst of its row with cricketer Harbhajan Singh for featuring in a liquor advertisement, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has described England's spin bowling hero Monty Panesar as a "true" Sikh sports icon.
"We want to honour Monty Panesar. We have tried to contact him also but he has not been available. In our view, he is the true Sikh sports icon," SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar told on the sidelines of a religious event in New Delhi on Friday evening.
Born in Luton, Madhusuden Singh Panesar, known as Monty, became the first Sikh to play for England.
Rapidly vanishing turbans and sporting of trimmed beards in Punjab, the heartland of the Sikh faith, have sparked concerns among community elders about what they see as a mounting crisis on the religion's distinct identity.
Panesar is one of the few Sikh sportsmen who do not trim beard and hair.
Notwithstanding Harbhajan Singh's apology for featuring in an advertisement with his hair open, an act seen as a disgrace in the faith, Makkar said he was disappointed that the cricketer had not quit as a model for a liquor brand.
"He called himself a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, but he has not yet quit the liquor advertisement. He has appeared again in it, this time wearing a patka (underturban)," the SGPC chief said.