India’s limited overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma has been nominated for the Khel Ratna, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced on Saturday.
Rohit’s opening partner Shikhar Dhawan has been once again nominated for the Arjuna award along with team’s senior-most pace bowler Ishant Sharma and all-rounder Deepti Sharma.
Only three cricketers have previously won the Khel Ratna, India’s highest sporting honour: Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
The nomination comes on the back of Rohit’s stupendous performances in 2019, including at the 2019 One-Day International World Cup where he scored a record five centuries. The Indian star was the tournament’s top run scorer. He wrapped up a sensational year with the ODI series win against West Indies, finishing with a record-breaking 2442 runs as an opener. The Mumbai batsman is also the first to score four T20I centuries and is the first player to have twin centuries in his first appearance as a Test opener.
“Extremely grateful for the year I have had. Personally, I have enjoyed batting, but there’s no way I’m stopping,” Rohit had said at the back-end of the calendar year.
“A World Cup victory would have been nice but as a team, throughout the year, whether red ball or white ball cricket, the team came together really well,” he said.
Dhawan, who is the quickest Indian batsman to reach 2000 and 3000 runs in ODIs and second-fastest Indian to score 4000 and 5000 runs in ODIs, has been a regular feature for the men in blue alongside Rohit. Dhawan had missed out on the Arjuna award in 2018.
A veteran of the Indian side now, Ishant Sharma has been leading the pace bowling attack in Tests and holds the record for most wickets by an Indian pacer outside Asia.
Deepti Sharma, who holds the record for the highest individual score by an Indian player, is also the only Indian woman to take a six-for in ODIs.
Speaking about the nominations, BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly said: “We went through a lot of data and considered various parameters before shortlisting the nominees. Rohit Sharma has set new benchmarks as a batsman and achieved scores people thought were not possible in the shorter formats of the game. We feel he is worthy of getting the prestigious Khel Ratna award for his commitment, conduct, consistency and his leadership skills.”
Ganguly added, “Ishant Sharma is the most senior member of the Test squad and his contribution has been vital in Indian team’s long run as the No. 1 Test side. Fast bowlers are prone to injuries and Ishant has had a fair share of them but he has fought hard to be back on the park every time. Shikhar has been consistently scoring at the top and his performances in the ICC events have been significant. Deepti is a genuine all-rounder and her contribution to the team has been vital.”
The Khel Ratna award, named after Rajiv Gandhi, carries a medallion, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh and the Arjuna awardees are given Rs 5 lakh each along with citations. In 2019, para-athlete Deepa Malik and wrestler Bajrang Punia won the nation’s top sports award.