The Union sports ministry has chosen hockey wizard Dhyan Chand over Sachin Tendulkar as its nominee for the Bharat Ratna.
In a meeting on Wednesday, names of both superstars were discussed before Dhyan Chand, who sparked India’s unmatched gold rush at the Olympics, emerged as the ministry’s choice.
The ministry had weighed representations from supporters of both the greats but decided on the hockey legend, rationalising that an active sportsperson always stood a chance of earning the country’s highest honour in the future.
Sports minister Jitendra Singh was also suitably impressed by a delegation led by Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar, which met him on July 12 and argued in his favour. Former Indian cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi was part of the delegation.
“The minister said he supported our views and said he would personally hand over the letter recommending my father’s name for the Bharat Ratna to the Prime Minister,” Ashok Kumar told TOI.
Dhyan Chand, who passed away in 1979, won three gold medals at the Olympics – in 1928 ( Amsterdam), 1932 ( Los Angeles) and 1936 ( Berlin). More than these medals, he is known as a man who singularly popularised the game and contributed to the country’s aura as masters of the game during the pre-independence era.
“I am happy that his name has been recommended. Dhyan Chandji was always a simple man who toiled hard for hockey, never expecting any rewards in return. The Bharat Ratna would be a big honour for him as well as the game,” Ashok Kumar said.
In December 2011, the government had ignored a collective plea of 82 MPs who had backed Dhyan Chand for the award. In January 2012, the ministry had forwarded the names of Dhyan Chand, shooter Abhinav Bindra and mountaineer Tenzing Norgay for the award. Incidentally, Tendulkar’s name was missing as BCCI had not recommended his name.