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Respect the Khel Ratna

That there is very little which is not challenged in India can be attributed to the questioning era we live in.

However, the furore over the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award is nothing short of unsportsmanship.

A committee formed by the sports ministry and headed by billiards legend Michael Ferreira picked world champion rifle shooter Ronjan Sodhi for the award. But Commonwealth gold medal-winning discus thrower Krishna Poonia protested loud and clear that she deserved it. Poonia has found support in some fellow athletes, who believe she was sidelined after initially being considered.

The Sports Ministry has decided to postpone the National Sports Day from August 29 to 31. It is a day when awards are given out, but the controversy has resulted in the ministry not releasing the official list of awardees.

Champion shooter Anjali Bhagwat who is Ferreira’s colleague in the committee, revealed that Poonia asked her to recommend her name for the award a day before the panel met, while Poonia accused Bhagwat of supporting Sodhi since he is a shooter.

The Khel Ratna award controversy is an ugly addition to the list of infighting, debacles in Indian sport. While accusations and counter accusations fly back and forth, this does not bode well for the sporting scene, which is perpetually mired in controversy. It also takes the sheen off some of these most prestigious and highly coveted awards. Sportspersons need to respect selection committees. As India strives to make its mark on the global stage in every sport and move beyond a one-sport-country image, this politicking is a huge backward step.  

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