Isn't this rather sad? A player lives with the dream of playing for the country. Then he or she works hard to win a medal for it. But even after winning a medal for India, they have to prove they deserve to be selected for the Arjuna award.
This peculiar situation also applies to the Dronacharya award for coaches. I read this in the newspapers every year. Every August, experts on TV discuss this issue but I am surprised nothing has changed and nobody seems interested in fixing this faulty system.
As a former player, I feel we have to change our approach while choosing the committee that decides the Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees. People who understand sport and know sport should be in the committee.
If you don't understand the game and you are part of the panel, then it is not easy for you to assess the hard work, dedication and sacrifice an achiever puts in. If a player wins a medal for India and you fail to recognise this, it means you have no knowledge of the game.
Every year, players make a hue and cry to be in the awards list. Some of them also try to make their voice heard through the media. Of course, everyone has a right to raise their voice if injustice is done, but I strongly believe that imbalance in the selection process is the biggest problem.
There are some sports where only five or six countries take part in the World Cups or championships. How many countries play cricket? Someone was telling me there are so many World Cups in shooting. I am not questioning the great achievements of our shooters. But the competition is very tough in some events, the Asian Games for instance. In the Commonwealth Games, hockey is fought very hard. So, I can say winning a hockey medal in the CWG is a big achievement and the country should be proud of it.
As I said, there should be balance while assessing performances in a team, individual and doubles event. For example, there are 18 players in a hockey squad. I am not saying give the entire team the Arjuna award, but I expect the top performers to be recognised, just as the committee considers players who win medals in individual events.
I would like to request future selection committee members to do a simple study assessing the standard of the competitions where our players win medals. Then, most of their problems will be solved when they sit to select the awardees.
I am pained when I see a player has written to the sports ministry to get the award. If players have to write or cry in public for an award, there must be some problem in the system. We don't want our awards system to be in such a mess.
Every year controversy surrounds the Arjuna awards. And every year there are some undeserving awardees. This prestigious award is meant to give recognition and respect to an athlete for his or her achievement, but it always ends up this way. I don't know when these controversies will end, but I would like to believe they are laid to rest soon for the betterment of Indian sport.
The writer is ex-India hockey captain and sitting Rajya Sabha MP