The 12-member selection committee, headed by legendary cricketer Kapil Dev, decided not to name any sportsperson out of the seven candidates for the Khel Ratna at a meeting here.
This is the third time no sportsperson has been named for the Khel Ratna since the inception of the country’s highest sporting award in 1991.
Besides Ashwin, the other 14 recommended for the Arjuna Award were Akhilesh Varma (archery), Tintu Luka (athletics), H N Girisha (paralympics), V Diju (badminton), Geetu Ann Jose (basketball), Jai Bhagwan (boxing), Anirban Lahiri (golf), Mamta Pujari (kabaddi), Saji Thomas (rowing), Heena Sidhu (shooting), Anaka Alankamony (squash), Tom Joseph (volleyball), Renubala Chanu (weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (wrestling).
“The selection panel examined the seven names placed before them for the consideration of Khel Ratna but none of them were deserving enough to get the nod,” a selection panel member said on the condition of anonymity.
“We discussed each and every seven names for the Khel Ratna Award. The longest discussion was in case of golfer Jeev Milkha Singh after Kapil mentioned his name but ultimately the panel decided against his name,” the member said.
It is also learnt that Somdev Devvarman’s 2011 Arjuna Award went against him while considering his name for the Khel Ratna as some panel members felt that he has not achieved much success after that year.
The selection panel members for the Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award included the likes of Anju Bobby George and Kunjarani Devi, both of the highest sporting honour themselves, two mediapersons and three from the government side, including Sports Authority of India Director General Jiji Thomson.
The Sports Ministry will examine 15 names recommended by the selection panel and it may drop or even add any sportsperson in the list for the Arjuna Award.
The Arjuna Award consists of a statuette, a certificate, ceremonial dress, and a cheque of Rs 5 lakh. The award will be conferred on August 29, the National Sports Day.
The performance of sportspersons for the four-year period from 2010 to 2013 has been considered for the recommendation of Arjuna Awards.
27-year-old Ashwin has been India’s premier off-spinner for the last few years and he has taken 104 Test wickets from 20 matches and 106 scalps from 79 ODIs.
The Tamil Nadu player, who made his Test debut in 2011, was part of India’s World Cup victory that year and recently became the number one all-rounder in the ICC rankings.
Kerala athlete Luka holds the national record in women’s 800m and the 25-year-old won a bronze in 2010 Asian Games and was part of the gold-winning 4x400m relay team in the Asian Championships in Pune last year.
Para-athlete Girisha bagged a silver in the men’s high jump F42 event in the 2012 London Paralympics. His name was entered for both the Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards but got the recommendation for the latter honour.
Shooter Sidhu won a gold in the 2013 ISSF World Cup Finals in 10m Air Pistol event. She became the first Indian pistol shooter to be ranked world number one by ISSF. She also won a gold in women’s 10 metre air pistol pairs at 2010 Commonwealth Games besides also bagging a silver in the singles event.
Compound archer Abhishek Varma won three gold (individual, team and mixed team event) in the Asian Championships last year.
Boxer Jai Bhagwan won a bronze in 2010 Commonwealth Games while weightlifter Renubala Chanu bagged a gold. Shuttler V Diju won a silver in mixed team event in 2010 Delhi CWG. Wrestler Sunil Rana was also one of the Indian medal winners in 2010 Delhi CWG, bagging a bronze in men’s Greco-Roman 66kg category.