The irony is too striking to be missed. The first anniversary of Harbhajan Singh’s hearing for abusing,even if not racially abusing,Andrew Symonds almost coincided with the off-spinner being conferred with the fourth highest civilian award by the Indian government — the Padma Shri.
While there’s no denying that he’s a champion sportsperson,in Harbhajan’s case,given that he slapped S Sreesanth after an IPL match not too long ago,felicitating him with Padma Shri does add a new meaning to civility.
In the meantime,however,there are allegations that our Olympic heroes have been slighted in the annual awards list. Abhinav Bindra,the country’s first individual gold medallist,was given the Padma Bhushan but Olympic bronze medal winners Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar weren’t deemed fit to be honoured at all.
After the controversy,the government is in fire fighting mode. They acknowledge the efforts of the players but say that the Padma awards factor in achievements of a lifetime,and not just a particular year. It sounds like a convenient theory,especially considering that it was because of the three that India’s show at the Olympics was its best ever. For the first time,heads were not hanging in shame but there was pride and optimism. And to those who are looking for a more matter-of-fact argument,there has been a precedent: Lt Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was given the Padma Shri award months after winning the silver medal at Athens.
And if they are looking for a consistent performance,spread over a longer period of time,Vijender,who had also won a bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games,still deserved a look-in.
Having said that,there’s no reason for Vijender and Sushil to lose heart as yet. Sachin Tendulkar,who had established himself long before,got a Padma Vibhushan as late as 1999.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines