It is not in keeping with this newspaper&’s traditions to say “we told you so”, yet it is difficult not to recall that a couple of years back it had strongly advocated scrapping the entire range of national sporting awards because they generated unseemly controversies. Sadly, there is need to re-issue that advice. Till the Biblical “eleventh hour” there was confusion over whether India&’s most accomplished woman tennis player would be receiving the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award from the President (funny that the ‘Rajiv Gandhi’ is conveniently being dropped of late), or if a rather curious interim order of the Karnataka High Court would play spoilsport. Yet that is not the only award that has been questioned in court this year; an ugly precedent is being followed. That actually projects sport and sportspersons in negative light – awards are conferred by an eminent panel and, as every true sportsman has come to accept, “the referee&’s decision is final”. Similarly, awards cannot be demanded or challenged. It is also a pity that the courts entertain pleas against the panel&’s decisions – particularly when no glaring errors/bias are established – for referees, umpires, selection committees and awards-panel have a degree of the same brand of authority and aura of those donning the black robes. Can a batsman declared leg-before-wicket rush to court, or indeed can a judge not selected for elevation to a higher court seek judicial redress? Let courtrooms not risk being dubbed theatres of the absurd.
The sports ministry is also at fault. In typical unimaginative bureaucratic fashion it has laid down a marking system based on criteria that is vague, reflects the ***sarkari*** fetish for medals and is blind to the reality that the Olympic, Asian and Commonwealth Games are not necessarily pinnacles. Indeed certain disciplines – cricket being a prime example – are not part of those festivals. So should no cricketer be awarded? It must also be asked why “eminent” persons agree to join panels that prescribe dubious methodology. Yet the major “offence” is that of the expanding section of the sporting community that seeks legal recourse to gain what it was not deemed worthy of by peers. Why further tarnish the images of Arjuna, Dronacharya…? Best to “blow the whistle”.