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"Let Him Get OTher Awards First" (3/19/2003)
--s2h
New Delhi: 19th March 2003:

Let Sachin Tendulkar get other awards before one thinks about Bharat Ratna

Extract: A leading political leader recently wrote to both President and Prime Minister of India requesting to confer the country’s top most civilian award Bharat Ratna to batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, much to the surprise of the sports lovers all over the country. This has created a public debate. Hockey’s mega star Dhanraj puts the things in proper perspectives.

Details: It’s everyone wants say, but no guts to go for. As usual hockey’s mega star Dhanraj picks up the gauntlets on behalf of entire sporting community of India. Dhanraj anyway calls spade a spade. His view on hyped up cricket mania that is sweeping the Indian shores was no different. On the last day of the training for the Sultan Azlan Cup he gave vent to his feelings.

“Like every Indian, I also want India to win the World Cup cricket. It’s amazing for any sportsperson that his team wins eight matches in a world cup as our cricket team had just done. They are just two matches away from the World Cup. (The interview was taken before India won the World Cup)”. Does it mean we should jump the wall and say Sachin should be given Bharat Ratna”

“I will open my heart. Sachin is a legend. This he has proved many times, this World Cup being the one more. His batting against Pakistan was in particular a grand feat. But can we say he should get Bharat Ratna?”

“There are many sports in India and many many great performers. World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand, tennis sensation Leander Paes, Kapil Dev who won the 1983 world cup cricket and our own hockey players of yore. Sachin has got Khel Ratna and Padam Shree. Then there are Badma Bhusan, Badma Vibhsan. Let him get these first before we think about Bharat Ratna, which is given in rarest of rare cases.”

“People say so many things. Indian media in particular is step motherly to other sports. When we won Pakistan twice in the last year, no great hype was played out by the media. We won the Dhaka Prime Minister Gold Cup in early 2001; not many even knew this. Because the media had just ignored the great victory. Take the case now. Journalists know how many bottles of water Rahul Dravid or for that many any other player drank in the World Cup. How many of them know our achievements in hockey fields?”

“Cricketers are at least get paid for their toil, but what about us? Hockey players or from any other sports don’t even get match fee. Our earnings are restricted to our salaries our employers pay.” “Yesterday our team was announced for the Sultan Azlan Cup. It comes just in a corner of the sports pages. Don’t we deserve better? My point is, give equal treatment to every sport.”

Note: Dhanraj on that refused to give interview to many journalists from visual media despite repeated plea from them. `Go and do cricket’ was his refrain.

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