By Rohit Mundayur
The football legend was part of the 12-member committee that conducted meetings over two days in New Delhi to recommend names for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Awards, Dronacharya Awards and Dhyanchand Awards.
There was particular criticism over the absence of shooting coach Jaspal Rana’s name from the list of recommendations for the Dronacharya Award and Bhutia said that while everyone in the committee acknowledged his achievements, the majority of the opinions did not work in Rana’s favour.
“For the Arjuna and Dronacharya awards, achievements over a four-year period was taken into account. There was a lot of debate and discussion over Jaspal’s case. I personally feel that he was a great contender. This time it did not happen in terms of the majority opinion. With just three spots available, it was a very tough competition for the Dronacharya Awards,” Bhutia told IANS.
Rana (43), a five-time Asian Games gold medallist shooter and an Arjuna awardee, is credited with grooming the likes of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary and Anish Bhanwala.
Many criticised the committee for not including Rana’s name in the list of recommendations for the Dronacharya Awards and this included Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra.
“I can attribute much of my success to having wonderful coaches. @jaspalrana2806 has earned my respect as one of the best & it is disappointing to see him overlooked for the Dronacharya. Hope this gives his wards the impetus to train harder & prove the committee wrong at Tokyo 2020,” Bindra tweeted.
The panel nominated Vimal Kumar (badminton), Sandeep Gupta (table tennis) and Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics) for the Dronacharya Award regular category while Mezban Patel (hockey), Ranbir Singh Khokar (kabaddi) and Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket) were picked for the Dronacharya Award in the lifetime category.
Bhutia admitted that the nature of the awards is such that it is bound to be unfair to many.
“It’s a very difficult task — selecting the Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees. Because there are a lot of sports and they may have disciplines within them, like athletics. So in the end, it is bound to become unfair to someone or the other,” he said.
To make the process of selection easier and hopefully fairer, the committee suggested to the ministry categorisation of awards in terms of Olympic sports, non-Olympic sports, para sports and indigenous sports with an emphasis on those disciplines recognised on the Olympic stage.
“We have all put in a suggestion stating as much,” Bhutia said.