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PR Sreejesh disappointed at HN Girisha moving court for Khel Ratna

Indian hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh believes HN Girisha was wrong in moving HC against decision to award Sania Mirza the Khel Ratna

Sania Mirza receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from President Pranab Mukherjee

The Indian hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has expressed his disappointment at athletes taking legal routes to get awards. Referring to the incident where HN Girisha filed a plea against the decision to award Sania Mirza the Khel Ratna, the hockey player said that it is a very disturbing trend, which devalues the pride and honour associated with the national awards.

"Athletes or coaches should not approach the court to get awards. I know it is happening quite often of late, but it puts the athletes in bad light and takes the sheen off the honour associated with it," Sreejesh told PTI after receiving the Arjuna award from President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday.

"In my view, there should be an appeal panel which the athletes can approach in case they feel the selection process has been unfair. That is a much better way of dealing with the matter than taking the legal route.

"Plus, you also have the option of applying for the award next year. Look at the example of Tom Joseph (volleyball player). He finally got the Arjuna last year after being ignored for such a long time," Sreejesh added.

Why Girisha took the legal route

Just when it seemed there would be no controversy in the lead-up to this year's function, HN Girisha, a paralympic high jump athlete, approached the Karnataka High Court asking for a stay order on Sania Mirza’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. He had also applied for the award, but had lost out to Mirza who received the award from the President on the National Sports Day on 29th August. Sania also became just the second tennis player after Leander Paes to receive the Khel Ratna award, who won it in 1996.

The Sports Ministry was fighting a court case 12 hours before the ceremony when wrestling coach Vinod Kumar approached the Delhi High Court, claiming he was more deserving for the Dronacharya award than his rival Anoop Singh, whose name was recommended by the government-appointed panel.

According to the points system, Girisha said he had 90 points with his silver medal at the London Paralympics in 2012 and the Bronze medal at the Asian Games at Incheon in 2014, while Sania Mirza won only 2 medals at the Asian games and two mixed doubles titles at the French and US Open in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Her women’s doubles at the Wimbledon this year was not considered. It should also be mentioned that Sania’s long list of titles on the WTA Tour is not under the criteria for scoring points else she would be far ahead of Girisha.

But the ministry came out and said that it has two clauses which they follow, which are:

  1. The equivalence of any other sports discipline/tournament, not listed by the ministry, will be decided by the selection committee with reference to the ones mentioned in the list and points will be allotted accordingly.
  2. It may not mechanically recommend Khel Ratna to the recipient of the highest marks.

The ceremony did take place but was shrouded in controversy with the ignored athletes and coaches not accepting the recommendations of the government-appointed panel.

Moving back to hockey, Sreejesh talked about the controversy surrounding the sacking of Paul van Ass and talked about the upcoming Rio Olympics.

"There is an issue if you keep changing the coaches, but the good thing for us is that we still have Roelant. We have a good rapport with him and the team is improving fast. We have formed a good bunch of defenders and strikers that we need to make a mark in Rio," admitted the 27-year-old

Comparing Sania Mirza and HN Girisha. [Image credits: HT]
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