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Arjuna Award for hockey players has steadily reduced over the years

Ritu Rani, Vokkaliga Raghunath and Dharamvir Singh have been nominated for this year's Arjuna Award by Hockey India.

President Pranab Mukherjee honours hockey player Sardar Singh with Arjuna Award
President Pranab Mukherjee honours hockey player Sardar Singh with Arjuna Award

Arjuna Award is such a coveted award that every sportsperson aspires to receive it one day. When it comes to awarding the prestigious award to hockey players, it’s a trend one can pick based on the number of players who have won this award over the years. The number of hockey players receiving this coveted award has steadily come down unlike the days when it was a routine thing to expect more than one hockey player, or at least one player win the award in a particular year.

Ever since the Arjuna Award was first instituted in 1961, hockey players have often got a fair deal with the likes of late Prithipal Singh and Ann Lumsden receiving it in the first year itself. The first instance of three hockey players receiving the Arjuna Award was in 1966 when VJ Peter, Sunita Puri and Gurbaksh Singh won it.

Of course, there were times when one felt that some players received the Arjuna Award many years after they had called it a day or were at the peak of their powers. Take the case of Harmik Singh – the brother of Ajit Pal Singh – who had played at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, but received the award in 1997. Former star fullback and late Surjit Singh, whose heydays were late seventies and early eighties, won the Arjuna Award a decade later in 1998. Raghbir Singh Bhola – who played in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics – won this award many decades later in 2000. Balkishen Singh – a member of the 1956 Olympics team – won this award in 2000.

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Surinder Singh Sodhi – a hero of the 1980 Moscow Olympics – won the coveted award in 1997. The likes of VJ Phillips, Rajinder Singh and Jalaluddin Rizvi are also same. One really does not know the reasons why these greats got the Arjuna Award so many years after they called it quits.

Surprisingly, the year 1998 saw a humongous 11 hockey players receive the Arjuna Award, while the year 2000 saw six hockey player win this award. The trend of more than one hockey player winning this award was last seen in 2009 when Surinder Kaur and Ignace Tirkey received the award. Of course, there were years when no hockey player has got this award – 1962, 1969, 1976, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1993, 2001, 2007 and 2014.

One hopes that our hockey players continue to receive this coveted award and also receive it when they are at their peak and not when they retired from the game long ago. The way the national team is performing and regularly beating top sides it won’t be too far when we start seeing more than one player receive this award in one particular year. One knows that 2016 could see that happening given that the likes of Ritu Rani, Vokkaliga Raghunath and Dharamvir Singh are recommended by Hockey India this year.

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