Woman table tennis player Manika Batra, Rio Paralympic gold medallist, high-jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu and women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal have also been picked for the Khel Ratna by the 12-member selection committee.
In 2016, four sportspersons – badminton player PV Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, gymnast Dipa Karmakar and shooter Jitu Rai – were recommended for the Khel Ratna.
Mariyappan Thangavelu. (Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)
In another first, it’s been learnt that the committee recommended an unprecedented 29 names for the Arjuna award, including pace bowler Ishant Sharma, sprinter Dutee Chand, recurve archer Atanu Das, woman boxer Lovlina Borgohain, footballer Sandesh Jhingan, golfer Aditi Ashok, hockey player Akashdeep Singh, shooters Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, woman weightlifter Mirabai Chanu and wrestler Sakshi, among others.
The interesting part about the choice was the recommendations of Mirabai and Sakshi’s names. It’s for the first time that athletes, who have previously been honoured with the Khel Ratna, have been recommended for Arjuna. While Sakshi won the award in 2016 for winning a bronze in the Rio Olympics, Mirabai was conferred the honour in 2018 for her World Championship gold. The recommendations will now be sent to sports minister Kiren Rijiju for his final assent.
If Rohit gets the award, the 33-year-old opener will become only the fourth cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli to be conferred with the Khel Ratna. Rohit was nominated for scoring five brilliant centuries in a single World Cup (2019) edition.
Vinesh Phogat. (Photo credit: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images)
Vinesh was recommended for her gold in the 2018 CWG and Asian Games besides a bronze at the 2019 Worlds. Mariyappan got the committee’s nod for his Rio Paralympic gold, Rani for guiding the team to the Jakarta Asiad silver and later helping the team secure qualification for Tokyo Olympics and Manika for her historic medal-winning performance at the 2018 CWG and Asiad.
However, world No.1 boxer in the 52kg category, Amit Panghal’s application for the Khel Ratna was rejected by the committee owing to his dope-tainted past. Panghal has been nominated for Arjuna for the past three years but was not considered by different selection committees because of his 2012 ‘inadvertent’ doping offence.