Cricket is a religion in India, but it’s quite a sad story when other sports or people related to other games suffer due to the star power involved in cricket. Over the years, there have been stories about the sufferings of the sportsmen which have been brushed under the carpet. But not this time! After being overlooked for Khel Ratna Award 2018, Bajrang Punia has come out fearlessly and has lamented the selection committee. As per the reports in Times of India, Virat Kohli won the honour despite having 0 points in his kitty. Whereas wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phoghat had 80 points, yet lost to the honour due to show of hands in the committee. The other Khel Ratna 2018 awardee is Mirabhai Chanu for 44 points.
As per the documents, obtained by Times of India, there were six names in total contending for Khela Ratna who had more points than Mirabai Chanu. Vinesh Phoghat and Bajrang Punia based on their achievements had scored 80 points based on their achievements. Despite this, the Selection Committee opted to go for the show of hands and obviously it was due to the star power that Virat Kohli walked away for the award. So did Mirabai Chanu! As per the report, cricket which is not even an Olympic sport has no points system and the names are shortlisted through consensus. This can lead to controversy.
The document obtained by the Times of India had 17 names for Khel Ratna Award including para-athlete Deepa Malik with 78.4 points, table tennis sensation Manika Batra with 65 points, boxer Vikas Krishan with 52 points and archer Abhishek Verma and 55.3. 11 names were then shortlisted from 17 and the selection committee gave them a few discretionary points with the highest limit of 20.
Chanu bagged 19 points, Virat Kohli was on 18.5, Srikanth was on 18, Vinesh-13, Rohan Bopanna and Bajrang Punia -12, Neeraj Chopra (15), Deepa Malik (12), Vikas Krishan (14), Manika Batra (13) and para-wrestler Virender Singh (12). It still left Mirabai with 63 (44+19) points, Punia with 92 (80+12), Phogat at 93 (80+13) at 93 (80+13), Malik at 90.4 (78.4+12) (78.4+12), Batra at 78 (65+13) and Vikas at 66 (52+14) points.
A member from the committee spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity and said that Virat Kohli’s name was picked after the show of hands and 8 out of 11 people voted for the Indian cricket captain. The same process was followed for Mirabai Chanu and Kidambi Srikanth. Seven members voted for Chanu and 6 for Srikant. “There was a further debate on Srikanth's inclusion and an internal voting also took place. But, opinion remained divided on his name, and only Kohli and Mirabai’s names were recommended. Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat’s names to came up during the discussion but they were not considered for the awards,” explained the member. Check out the full list of National Sports Award 2018 winners.
Post this, Bajrang Punia met the sports minister Rajavardhan Rathord who gave him several assurances. But, Punia was unhappy with the same and said that he intends to move to the court if his credentials are ignored despite having maximum points. “I have immense respect for Kohli and Chanu. They are two champion sportspersons, but if you look at my credentials and that of Mirabai, there is no comparison. You give her the award, give it to me as well. It’s simple!,” said Punia.