Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu were jointly recommended for the country’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Kohli will become the third Indian cricketer after legendary Sachin Tendulkar (1997) and the talismanic former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2007) once the sports ministry officially accepts the committee’s recommendation.
India’s top male shuttler Kidambi Srikanth was also reportedly in contention for his good show in the Super Series Circuit last year but lost out to the 24-year-old Chanu, who is the reigning world champion in the 48kg category with a world record to boot.
Kohli, the world’s No.1 Test batsman as per the ICC rankings, has been in stupendous form for the past three years and missed out despite nominations in the years 2016 and 2017. With a combined 58 tons in international cricket, the 29-year-old cricketor is only second to Sachin Tendulkar (100) in the list of century-scorers in international cricket.
The BCCI has been nominating Kohli for the Khel Ratna for the past three years but in 2016, it was given to Sakshi Malik, PV Sindhu and Deepa Karmakar for their good show at the Rio Olympic Games. Last year, the Khel Ratna was awarded to former India hockey captain Sardar Singh and para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia. Kohli is one of those rare sportspersons, who has received Padma Shri award (2017) before Khel Ratna.
For Chanu, the award comes as a massive morale-booster as she is currently recovering from a lower back injury, which forced her to skip the Asian Games in Jakarta. She is the current Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and India’s only medal hope in weightlifting going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.