Satya Prakash Tiwari is the winner of the prestigious Dhyan Chand Award in Para Badminton category along with former shuttlers Pradeep Gandhe and Trupti Murgunde. Tiwari gave badminton the first-ever Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement. Apart from cricketers, shuttlers from India have been given such prominence. In fact, for the first time in history, badminton has bagged six awards in the National Sports Awards. These Awards have curved a milestone moment for Indian badminton. But apart from this glory, this year too the National Sports Awards attracted the allegations of favor, lobbying, networking, etc. Once again politics hurt sports.
Ministry played the real game
Once again, the autocratic ways of bureaucrats and ministers made a difference in National Sports Awards. Likes and dislikes crop up too; whether they support the government by toeing its line is important. And then, there are eminent sports personalities who push particular cases. Many worthy sportspersons never got a Khel Ratna. Should the government ponder over the issue of honoring them retrospectively?
Is Rohit bigger then Gavaskar?
Even cricket was shamed. Is Rohit Sharma’s achievement bigger than that of Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, or P.T. Usha? Cricket’s governing body started the Hall of Fame to recognize “the achievements of the legends of the game from cricket’s long and illustrious history.” The initiative was launched in 2009 but the ICC has tried to ensure that no one misses out. If one looks at the list 20 years from now, it will make for a far more complete list than India’s list of Khel Ratna awardees ever will. And that is a bit of a shame. India hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of archiving sporting achievements but a Hall of Fame could perhaps help the country to remember it's sporting greats better.
Khel Ratna Award is degraded
The winner of India’s highest sports award ‘Khel Ratna’ in 2016, Sakshi Malik, has the Sports Ministry for not considering her for the Arjuna Award, which is not regarded as high as the Khel Ratna. So, it was sheer greed, for this award has prize money, chance of promotion and a higher pension when one retires. Still, it was akin to clamoring for a graduate degree after having earned a doctorate. Fact is India’s National Sports Awards are more famous for distributing favors than felicitating deserving sports persons. This year’s crowd of winners has shamed the award. Five Khel Ratna winners, 27 Arjuna Awardees in a non-Olympic, non-Asian Games year is a bit much. But even then, fingers are raised for omissions.
Neeraj's omission will cost India
Nominations of the Athletic Federation of India leave a lot to be desired. It recommended triple jumper Arpinder Singh, 100m runner Dutee Chand, middle-distance runners Manjit Singh and P.U. Chithra for the Arjuna and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra for the Khel Ratna. Arpinder was ignored for the Arjuna Award despite winning the Asian Games gold in 2018 in an individual event while Dutee Chand, who won two silvers, has got the award.
The Selection Committee may recommend, in deserving cases with proper justification, more than one sportsperson in respect of team sports and sportspersons of both the genders but this was not followed here. While table tennis star Manika Batra gets the Khel Ratna (for the same Asian Games and CWG performances that won her the Arjuna Award in 2018) but India’s true Olympic Hope Neeraj, who is among the best javelin throwers in the world, was ignored. Then, there is the case of Paralympic high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, who received the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri for his gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Satya Prakash is a deserving Winner
Gandhe, who won doubles bronze at the 1982 Asian Games, was a contemporary of the likes of Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi. While the two-time South Asian gold medalist Murgunde was known for her tactical brilliance on court. Satya Prakash Tiwari has nine international medals to his name in the recognized para events. Para badminton team's head coach Gaurav Khanna was also honored with the Dronacharya Award. Under Khanna, the Indian team has scripted many glorious moments which include gold medals at the world championship.
India's No. 1 men's double team members Chirag Shetty and Satwik Rankireddy also received the Arjuna Award for their impressive performances in 2019. Receiving the Dhyan chand Award for the first time is a special moment for Indian badminton. Such recognitions always encourage athletes like Tiwari to work harder.
Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Himanta Biswa Sarma has personally congratulated these winners of the Dhyan Chand Awards and the recipients of other awards. The latest sensations in Indian badminton—the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and R. Satwiksairaj, who are ranked World No.10—have exploits on the world scene including the prestigious triumph in the 2019 Thai Super 500 Series championship and also finishing runner-up in last year’s French Open.