Rohit Sharma in focus as Khel Ratna race begins

Tendulkar was bestowed the Khel Ratna in 1998, when the President’s House overflowed with his fans. Dhoni got it in 2007 and Kohli in 2018.

India batsman Rohit Sharma celebrates his century against Sri Lanka during the Cricket World Cup 2019.   -  FILE PHOTO/ AP

 

Will Rohit Sharma join the ranks of star cricketers Sachin Tendulkar,

MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli ? That will be the interesting question, when the selection panel meets in the capital on Monday and Tuesday to decide on the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna and other government sports awards.

Tendulkar was bestowed the Khel Ratna in 1998, when the President’s House overflowed with his fans. Dhoni got it in 2007 and Kohli in 2018. A cricket star has been recognised for his contribution almost every ten years, so far.

After being instituted in 1992, the Khel Ratna has been awarded to 38 sportspersons. Generally it is one or two every year, except when four were awarded after the Rio Olympics, and three after the Beijing Olympics.

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In 2014, the panel did not find a deserving candidate among six, two of whom went on to win the award in later years.

This year, there are about 40 applicants from more than 20 disciplines for the Khel Ratna.

The world under-20 champion, and the reigning Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra finds himself in the mix, along with another world under-20 champion athlete Hima Das.

Badminton, which has won awards through Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu has former world No.1 K. Srikanth in the list.

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With Devendra Jhajaria and Deepa Malik having made the breakthrough for para athletes, Rio Paralympics gold medallist high jumper Thangavelu Mariyappan may fancy his chance.

The shooters have done well in winning the award over the years, starting with Abhinav Bindra in 2001, and stand a fair chance to have a representation this time, through Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil and Ankur Mittal.

Joshana Chinappa (squash), Manika Batra (table tennis), Rani Rampal (hockey), Vinesh Phogat (wrestling), Prithvi Sekhar (tennis) and Jyothi Surekha (archery) are some of the other prominent athletes who have thrown their hat in the ring for the Khel Ratna.

With self application allowed this time, many athletes have mustered courage to nominate themselves from disciplines like wushu, throw ball, roller skating, powerlifting and pencak silat.

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