New Delhi: The Arjuna Awards selection committee, headed by World Cup winning cricket captain Kapil Dev, couldn't find a suitable candidate for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sports honour, and nominated cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin and pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, along with 13 others, for the Arjuna Awards.
Eight names, including that of discus throwers Vikas Gowda, Krishna Poonia, shuttler P.V. Sindhu and golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, were initially recommended for the Khel Ratna, sources in the committee said.
Only Jeev and Sindhu came close but the selection committee was not impressed with the former's 2012 Scottish Open win in the last four years. The committee also felt that Sindhu's bronze in last year's World Championships was not enough and she still has age on her side to get the award.
"Jeev's performance in the last four years was not impressive," said Kapil.
Offie Ashwin has been a consistent performer in the last three years. He is currently the No.1 all-rounder in ICC Test rankings. World No.5 Heena rose to the top of the international rankings after she won the gold medal in the World Cup finals in Munich last year. This year she won the gold in the Asian Shooting Championship and silver in the Fort Benning World Cup.
Besides Ashwin and Heena, who rose to world No.1 spot in April, the others nominated for the Arjuna Award are Abhishek Verma (archery), Tintu Luka (athletics), H.N. Girisha (paralympics), V. Diju (badminton), Geetu Ann Jose (basketball), Jai Bhagwan (boxing), Anirban Lahiri (golf), Mamta Pujari (kabaddi), Saji Thomas (rowing), Anaka Alankamany (Squash), Tom Joseph (volleyball), Renubala Chanu (weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (greco roman wrestling).