New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) The names of Dhyan Chand, Sachin Tendukar, Abhinav Bindra and Vishwanathan Anand were banded about for the Bharat Ratna. But when this year’s Republic Day awards were announced Wednesday none of then was considered for the country’s highest civilian award and all that people connected with sports got were eight Padma Shris.
Ajeet Bajaj (skiing), Jhulan Goswami (women’s cricket), Zafar Iqbal (hockey), Devendra Jhajrija (athletics-paralympics), Limba Ram (sports-archery), Syed Mohammed Arif (badminton) are the six sportspersons who will get the Padma Shri while cricket commentator Ravi Chaturvedi and Prabhakar Vaidya (physical education) are the others to get awards in the sports category.
Zafar, a former India captain and coach, reacted in his typical unassuming way, saying that it was an honour to Indian hockey and the players. Zafar captained the Indian team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the 1980 Moscow Games. An intrepid outside-left, he and Mohammad Shahid made an exciting pair of forwards.
“It is an honour for me personally, but I take it as a recognition of hockey in the country and its glorious history. I will be more happy if it can motivate many youngsters to take to the sport,” Zafar told IANS.
Zafar, a qualified engineer from Aligarh and a senior executive with Air India, thanked all those who played with him at all levels and all others connected with the game.
Zafar said he is grateful to his mother who had been a source inspiration for playing hockey.
“I would not have been a hockey player but for my mother’s constant prodding and encouragement when my father was keen that I should concentrate more on my studies. When I look back, both my parents pushed me to do well on both fronts,” he said.
Limba, who hails from the Ahari tribe in Rajasthan, said getting the Padma Shri 20 years after conferred with the Arjuna Award was a great feeling.
“Comming from tribal background and it is matter of great honour for me to get the recognition. It was special when I got the Arjuna Award in 1991 and to get this after more than 20 years is a feeling I cant describe,” said Limba.
Limba, who was the coach of the national team in the Commonwealth Games, said missing the Olympic bronze by a point in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics still hurts him.
“Though I won the Asian Championships gold in 1992 but reaching the quarterfinals at the Barcelona Olympics is definitely the highlight of my career. The field there was of very high quality and I still rue the fact that I missed the bronze medal by a point,” he said.
“Archery is already on the upward graph in our country and my recognition should give further boost to it. Today I feel all hardships that I faced in my life were worth it,” said Limba.
Describing the Padma Shri award as a “big motivation” to scale greater heights for the country in cricket, Indian women’s team captain Goswami said the honour has filled her with pride.
“It’s a great honour for me. I feel proud. It’s a great feeling,” the fast bowler who is the first Indian woman to claim ten wickets in a Test, told IANS over phone from Bangalore.
Goswami is now attending a camp at the National Cricket Academy for the upcoming tour to the West Indies where India play five twenty20 matches and three One-Day Internationals in Feb-March.
“I learnt about it around noon today and jumped in joy. This will motivate me to do well in the coming engagements. It will also motivate other women cricketers in my team to perform well,” Goswami said.
Last year, the government expanded the criteria for Bharat Ratna, making sportspersons eligible for the highest civilian award.
Hockey legend Dhyan Chand, shooter Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic champion, and Tenzing Norgay, the first Indian to scale the Mount Everest, were recommended by their federations for the prestigious award.
Anand, India’s chess great, was reportedly was also recommended for the award while India’s cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar was recommended by various individuals but not by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla, also a Congress MP, said the board recommends cricketers only for Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and not for Padma awards or the Bharat Ratna.
“Names are generally recommended by individuals and government panel makes the final decision. Even when Sachin got a Padma Shri and the Padma Vibushan, he was never recommended by the BCCI. We don’t give any names for this, BCCI just writes in for the Arjuna Award,” said Rajeev Shukla.
–Indo-Asian News service