Many believed that Virat Kohli's super-rich and larger-than-life status and BCCI's Right to Information (RTI) rejection will continue to deprive him from bagging Khel Ratna -- the highest national sporting award.
But the Indian skipper was third time lucky as most of the Arjuna Awards Committee members found full merit in his nomination for this 2018 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, along with Mirabai Chanu, who clinched an unprecedented Gold medal in the World Weightlifting Championship.
Interestingly, Virat Kohli's name was not considered for the last two times for Khel Ratna as many believed that the Ministry was against any cricketer given the highest honour as BCCI is not national sports federation -- they had vehemently opposed & rejected to come under the RTI -- and Indian cricketers are super rich and they do not require such an award.
Despite the fact that no other Indian cricketer, after Sachin Tendulkar, dominated the game as much as Virat, he missed out for reasons other than sports. On current form, achievement and impact in the game, Kohli is arguably the best cricketer in the world and by some distance for last few years. Thankfully, the present panel rose above prejudices against World's best player for no fault of his own.
Republic TV had accessed this news ahead of others, at a time when the panel were continuing on their discussion on the names for Arjuna Awards.
Neeraj Chopra, winner of Gold medal in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games 2018, Bajrang Punia, who won gold in both CWG and Asian Games and Vinesh Phogat, first Indian woman to win gold in CWG and Asian Games, were also discussed for the Khel Ratna, but the panel felt they still had age and time to get the award.
All the three athletes had won back to back CWG & Asian Games gold medals this year and were also hot favourites but the panel felt that Kohli's achievements in cricket were "distinctly greater" than any other in the fray.
Neeraj Chopra, however, bagged the Arjuna award along with sprinter Hima Das, middle distance runner Jinson Johnson, paddler Manika Batra and tennis player Rohan Bopanna and 15 others awardees.