Virat Kohli got Khel Ratna with ‘0’ points, Bajrang Punia lost out with 80

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NEW DELHI: Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli obtained ‘zero’ points while reigning world champion weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu earned 44 points on way to being named for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna by the 11-member selection panel.
While Kohli’s performance sheet had no points because no criteria has been set for cricket, according to documents with TOI, there were at least six other Khel Ratna aspirants who totalled more points than Chanu. Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, who totalled 80 points each, scored the highest points based on their achievements, yet it was a show of hands that ultimately decided that the Indian Test captain and Mirabai (who edged out shuttler Kidambi Srikanth) would receive India’s highest sports award this year.
Given the present system of calculating points, cricketers will always get zero points. They can hardly be blamed for an inefficient methodology. At the same time, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for other sportspersons who have toiled hard, often in obscurity, and notched up points through performances at global events. The answer, perhaps, lies in working out a way to award points for cricket as well. So, the cricket World Cup could perhaps be equated with the Olympics, the Asia Cup with the Asian Games and so on. This would clearly not be an ideal system as long as the BCCI remains adamant that cricket will not become an Olympic sport, but it would certainly be an improvement on the present methodology, which is completely subjective when it comes to cricketers.
After a meeting with the sports minister on Thursday, Punia told TOI he would move court on Friday against his name being overlooked for the award despite having the highest performance points.
The document, which breaks down the total points awarded based on achievements for 17 sportspersons shortlisted for the 2018 award, had para-athlete Deepa Malik behind Punia and Phogat with 78.4 points, followed by table tennis player Manika Batra (65), boxer Vikas Krishan (52) and archer Abhishek Verma (55.3).
There’s no points system for cricket, which is not an Olympic sport. Often, cricketers are selected through consensus, leaving scope for controversy. A committee member confessed to TOI that there was a debate over how the performance of Kohli (whose name had been rejected in 2016 and 2017) should be judged since the points system has been framed keeping in mind performances in Olympic and international tournaments.
‘What’s the use of points?’
“When Kohli’s name came up for discussion, it was decided to pick him through a show of hands in the absence of a points system for cricket,” a member said. “Eight out of the 11 members supported Kohli’s candidature and that’s how his name was recommended,” he added.
“In the case of Mirabai and Srikanth, the same process was followed. Seven members raised their hands for Mirabai and six in favour of Srikanth. So, Mirabai became the second recommendation. There was a further debate on Srikanth’s inclusion and an internal voting also took place. But, opinion remained divided on his name, and only Kohli and Mirabai’s names were recommended. Bajrang and Vinesh’s names too came up for discussion, but they weren’t considered for the award,” the member added.
Interestingly, the committee can award discretionary points (up to 20) to a sportsperson over and above the points given for achievements in Olympics, world championships, Asian and Commonwealth Games.