The Sports Ministry on Friday decided against bestowing the Arjuna award on former Khel Ratna winners Sakshi Malik and Mirabai Chanu, pruning the list to 27 but accepted an unprecedented five recommendations for the country's highest sporting honour this year.
Last week, the Justice (retd) Mukundakam Sharma-led selection committee had recommended 29 names for the Arjuna Award to the Sports Ministry.
The list also included Rio Olympics bronze medal-winning wrestler Sakshi and 2017 weightlifting world champion Mirabai, but the decision on bestowing the Arjuna on them was left to the discretion of Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.
This was due to the fact that they had already won the Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour.
The decision to include their names raised eyebrows and attracted criticism.
The five Khel Ratna winners for this year would be star cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Paralympic gold-winner Mariyappan Thangavelu, TT player Manika Batra, and women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal, the ministry confirmed in a formal press release.
In a first, the awards will be held virtually on August 29, the National Sports Day, instead of the Rashtrapati Bhavan this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The criteria for the awards takes into consideration the athletes' performances over a four-year period.
A weightage of 80 per cent is given to athletes winning medals at various international competitions with the remaining 20 per cent left to the discretion of the panel members.
Paddler Manika Batra's recommendation for the Khel Ratna raised doubts as she has not won anything of note since the Arjuna award on the back of her exploits at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
During this period, her world ranking has slipped to 63, but the ministry decided against rejecting her recommendation.
The recommendation of Rani Rampal also raised questions even though she helped the Indian hockey team secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, besides leading the team into the final of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where it lost to Japan 1-2.
The sports fraternity, though, lauded the Arjuna recommendation of Winter Olympic Games legend Shiva Keshavan, who has represented India six times in the luge event at the Games from 1998 to 2018.
Keshavan has won innumerable medals for India at the international level and has several world and Asian records to his name.
With the sports ministry pressing for recognition to indigenous sport, the Arjuna Award list also included an athlete from kho-kho (Sudhakar Sarika Kale).
List of awards:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award:
Rohit Sharma (Cricket), Mariyappan T. (Para Athletics), , Manika Batra (Table Tennis), Vinesh (Wrestling), Rani (Hockey)
Dronacharya Award (Lifetime category):
Dharmendra Tiwary (Archery), Purushotham Rai (Athletics), Shiv Singh (Boxing), Romesh Pathania (Hockey), Krishan Kumar Hooda (Kabaddi), Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar (Para Powerlifting), Naresh Kumar (Tennis), Om Parkash Dahiya (Wrestling).
Regular category: Jude Felix Sebastian (Hockey), Yogesh Malviya (Mallakhamb), Jaspal Rana (Shooting), Kuldeep Kumar Handoo (Wushu), Gaurav Khanna (Para Badminton)
Atanu Das (Archery), Dutee Chand (Athletics), Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy (Badminton), Chirag Chandrasekhar Shetty (Badminton), Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (Basketball), Subedar Manish Kaushik (Boxing), Lovlina Borgohain (Boxing), Ishant Sharma (Cricket), Deepti Sharma (Cricket), Sawant Ajay Anant (Equestrian), Sandesh Jhingan (Football), Aditi Ashok (Golf), Akashdeep Singh (Hockey), Deepika (Hockey), Deepak (Kabaddi), Kale Sarika Sudhakar (Kho Kho), Dattu Baban Bhokanal (Rowing), Manu Bhaker (Shooting), Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting), Madhurika Suhas Patkar (Table Tennis), Divij Sharan (Tennis), Shiva Keshavan (Winter Sports), Divya Kakran (Wrestling), Rahul Aware (Wrestling), Suyash Narayan Jadhav (Para Swimming), Sandeep Para (Athletics) Manish Narwal (Para Shooting)
Dhyan Chand Award:
Kuldip Singh Bhullar (Athletics), Jincy Philips (Athletics), Pradeep Shrikrishna Gandhe (Badminton), Trupti Murgunde (Badminton), N.
Usha (Boxing), Lakha Singh (Boxing), Sukhvinder Singh Sandhu (Football), Ajit Singh (Hockey), Manpreet Singh (Kabaddi), J.
Ranjith Kumar (Para Athletics), Satyaprakash Tiwari (Para Badminton), Manjeet Singh (Rowing), Late Shri Sachin Nag (Swimming), Nandan P Bal (Tennis), Netarpal Hooda (Wrestling).