The Jury
Sunil Gavaskar

Ever since he bid adieu from the great game of cricket a little over three decades ago, Sunil Gavaskar, one of the sport’s legends, has carved a niche for himself as a media personality. His punditry is looked forward to by the faithful when India’s cricketers are seen in action in whites as well as in the blues, and also during the signature events, be it in Asia or in the rest of the world under the aegis of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The former batting maestro plays badminton and follows most other sports that come under the ambit of the multi-discipline Olympic arena and appeals to a vast majority of the Indian populace.

M. M. Somaya

M. M. Somaya has had a distinguished sports career. Having represented his home state Maharashtra at the junior level in hockey, football and athletics, he eventually chose hockey as his game of true calling. Playing in the right-half position Somaya has had the distinction of taking part in three Olympic Games – Moscow, 1980; Los Angeles, 1984; and Seoul, 1988. He was a member of the team that won the Olympic Gold at Moscow in 1980 and was captain of the Olympic team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Besides this he has represented the country at two World Cups, two Asian Games and three Champions Trophies among other major tournaments. The Government of India honoured Somaya with the Arjuna Award in 1985 for his achievements in hockey.

After a long stint in sports, Somaya pursued a career in the corporate world. In over three decades with the Global Fortune 500 Company Bharat Petroleum he played many roles. Prominent among them were leadership roles in three important verticals. At separate times he was head of Corporate Communications, Business Head of Aviation Fuelling and Business Head of Lubricants. Somaya signed off from the company last year as Executive Director and member of the Management Council.

Between his careers in the sports and corporate worlds, Somaya has had a short stint as a journalist too covering two Olympics and two World Cups.

Anju Bobby George

One of the country’s greatest athletes, Anju Bobby George is the only Indian to have won a senior World Championships medal in athletics, a long jump bronze at the 2003 Paris Worlds. The country’s greatest long jumper ever, Anju also won the gold at the 2005 IAAF World Athletics Finals, also the only Indian to claim that honour. Anju had won the silver in Monte Carlo but it was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Kotova, the original gold winner, was stripped of the medal after her 2005 samples were retested years later. The Asian Games gold medallist in Busan, South Korea, in 2002, Anju also won the bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester the same year. That made her the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth Games medal in athletics. Had sport been clean and fair, Anju would probably be holding the country’s first-ever Olympic medal too in athletics. She was sixth at the 2004 Athens Olympics with 6.83m (incidentally, it is still the national record) but was upgraded to fifth in 2007 after American superstar Marion Jones, who had initially finished fifth, admitted to taking illegal drugs. The top three, all Russians – Tatyana Lebedeva, Irina Meleshina-Simagina and Tatyana Kotova – failed dope tests, Simagina in 2012 and the other two when their samples were retested years later, though it did not cover the 2004 Olympics period. Anju was probably unlucky there but there is no doubt that she belongs to the galaxy of greats in Indian athletics.

On how she plans to select the Sportstar award winners:

“I will basically be looking at 2018 performances but in case of a tie, I may look at past performances too while selecting the winners. And in athletics, since the  Commonwealth Games is a stronger event than the Asian Games, the Gold Coast performances will carry more value than the Jakarta performances.”

Anjali Bhagwat

For many years, Anjali Bhagwat had no equal on the distaff side of shooting, a sport which demands a high degree of excellence in the technical aspects. The first woman to break the glass ceiling in shooting, Anjali proved to be an expert in the 10m Air Rifle and Rifle 3 Position. She has won a mind-boggling 31 gold medals, 23 silver medals and seven bronze medals in various international meets such as the SAF Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships, Asian Games and World Cups. Anjali’s stupendous achievements won her admirers and the Arjuna award and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. She is coaching at the grassroots now. She is also a media personality invited by television channels to share her expert opinion.

N. Ram

N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Group Publishing, and former Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Hindu Group of publications, is a respected political journalist. He has written on a range of socio-political subjects and specialised in investigative journalism. He was also a part of the team that did the Bofors expose. Besides politics, Ram is a keen follower of sports and in his youth played one first-class match for Madras as its wicket-keeper in the Ranji Trophy. He has also reported Test matches for The Hindu briefly in the 1970s. Along with Susan Ram, he has written a biography of the Indian writer R. K. Narayan.

Ram was elected president of the Contemporary India Section of the 72nd session of the Indian History Congress (2011). Honours include the Padma Bhushan (for journalism), 1990; the Asian Investigative Journalist of the Year Award from the Press Foundation of Asia (1990); the B. D. Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism (1989); a Columbia J-School Alumni Award (2003); and the Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award for Excellence in Journalism 2018. His book ‘Why Scams are Here to Stay: Understanding Political Corruption in India’ was published in 2017.