Sachin Tendulkar Khel Ratna Award

Khel Ratna Award Winners in Cricket & Why It Has So Few Winners!

Khel Ratna Award is a way to honor India’s sporting gems. However, India’s most popular sport, Cricket, has very few winners for this particular awards. Reason? It is the way how the award is decided which makes it harder for sports like Cricket to get many winners. We will cover more on this in this article as well as see who among the Great Indian Cricketers have managed to get their hands on the award.

Table Of Contents

What is Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award?

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is India’s highest honor in the field of Sports and Athletics. As per its definition, the award is given to “spectacular and outstanding performance in the field of sports over a period of four years” at the international level. Named after late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the award was started in 1991 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The yearly award is decided by a 12 member committee constituted by the Ministry. The committee would consist of former award winners, Olympians, Arjuna Award winners or other esteemed sportspersons as well as a sports administrator.

Earlier, the award was based on performance during the year. However, the criteria were changed in 2015 to the performances of the last 4 years. Sports Authority of India and BCCI (for Cricket), as well as previous winners(from the same sports), send their recommendations to the Ministry.

After approval from the Anti-Doping agency, the committee evaluates the performances of each sportsperson and award marks as per the below table. The award is then given to the sportsperson with the highest marks, with exception when the committee decides to award more than one person for a particular year.

EventGold MedalSilver MedalBronze Medal
Olympics/Paralympics Games807055
World Championship/Cup403020
Asian Games302520
Commonwealth Games252015

How is Khel Ratna Awarded in Cricket?

The recommendation for Cricket still has to go through BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India). The recommendation then goes to Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for approval and Anti-Doping Agencies.

For any other games not included in Olympic, Asian Games, and Commonwealth Games like cricket and indigenous games, the individual performance of a sportsperson is taken into consideration.

Till date, there are only 4 cricketers who have been awarded with Khel Ratna Award. The big names like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and many others missed out on the award. This begs the question why are there so few Khel Ratna awards in cricket?

The main reason for this might be the definition of the award which is to honor “spectacular and outstanding performance”. With cricket schedule consisting of touring different countries and conditions, it was particularly hard to achieve a performance which could be considered more spectacular than Olympic, Asian or Commonwealth medals.

Prior to 2015, when the performance criteria were for one year, there were only 2 Khel Ratna Awardees in Cricket in 25 years. With the criteria changing to 4 year time period, the number game started favoring cricketers and two cricketers have won the award in just six years now.

Another reason that so few cricketers have won the Khel Ratna Award might have to do with BCCI not pushing for the awards actively. The likes of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have had some prolific years but were not given enough support from BCCI to win the award.

Cricketers Who Have Won Khel Ratna Award

1. Sachin Tendulkar – 1997/98

Sachin Tendulkar Khel Ratna Award
Sachin Tendulkar getting Khel Ratna Award from President KR Naraynan

Sachin Tendulkar has had an incredible run from 1996 to 1998. With 26 centuries in Tests and ODI between this period, he was far ahead of any batsmen at that time. His performance become more prominent when we take only ODIs into consideration where Sachin scored 17 centuries during this period with an average of 49.

What also made Sachin’s claim for Khel Ratna Award was his performance at the 1996 World Cup. Sachin scored 523 runs during the tournament and became the first batsman to score 500+ runs in Cricket World Cup.

2. Mahendra Singh Dhoni – 2007

Mahendra Singh Dhoni Khel Ratna Award
Paan Singh Dhoni getting Khel Ratna Award for MS Dhoni from President Pratibha Patil

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only Indian Captain to led India to two World Cup victories, one each in T20I & ODI format. MSD also had a Champions Trophy win as a captain and is the only captain to win all three tournaments.

Dhoni led a young Indian Team to an unexpected win in the 2007 T20 World Championship. This effort was enough for him to be bestowed with Khel Ratna Award for the year 2007.  Incredibly, Dhoni sent his father to receive the award from President Pratibha Patil.

3. Virat Kohli – 2018

Virat Kohli Khel Ratna Award
Virat Kohli getting Khel Ratna Award from President Ramnath Kovind

Virat Kohli had been in prolific form from 2016 to April 2018 and was easily the best batsman during this period. He scored 6284 International runs in all three formats during that period with 22 centuries and 25 fifties.

While Kohli had good performances at the 2015 ODI World Cup with 303 runs, he was incredible in the 2016 T20I World Championship scoring 273 runs with an average of 136.5. The World Cup performances and a general excellent form made Virat Kohli’s claim strong for Khel Ratna Award.

4. Rohit Sharma – 2020

While Kohli was doing excellent things in all three formats, Rohit Sharma was matching him in ODIs and T20Is. From 2016 to April 2020, Sharma scored 4548 runs with 20 centuries. He was second only to Kohli in both stats during this period. In T20Is, he was the highest scorer with 1906 runs and 3 centuries.

Sharma was especially prolific in the 2019 World Cup with 642 runs and 5 centuries. Sharma is third in terms of runs in a single World Cup after Sachin Tendulkar(673 in 2003) and Mathew Hayden(652 in 2007). With this consistent run of form, Rohit Sharma brought himself in contention for the Khel Ratna Award.

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