Instituted in the year 1954, the Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award conferred in honour of exceptional achievement in any field regardless of the age, gender, caste or creed.
Over the years, a total of 48 people including scientists, social reformers and others have been honoured with this prestigious award. But in the field of sports, Sachin Tendulkar remains the only person to have received the Bharat Ratna.
Here, we look at some Indian sportspersons wh deserve the country's highest civilian award for their contribution to sports:
With an Olympic bronze and a total of eight World Championship medals, including six golds, Mary Kom is undoubtedly the best ever woman athlete to have emerged out of India. The pugilist from Manipur has achieved feats that one can only dream for. Her comeback to sport after giving birth to twins in the year 2007 is a story which you would find only in the movies. Kom has been honoured with everything from the Arjuna Award to the Padma Vibhushan by the Indian government; the only feather yet to be added in her cap is the Bharat Ratna and for all her contributions to Indian sports, she deserves it.
One of the earliest stars for India in sports, Dhyan Chand is surely the greatest hockey player of all time. The tales of Dhyan Chand with a hockey stick in his hand will forever be etched in the history of Indian sports. He represented India at three Olympic Games winning the gold medal in all three occasions. Such was his stature in the hockey field that Adolf Hitler once invited him to join the German Army following his heroics at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Though India celebrates his birth anniversary as the National Sports day, it has not been awarded any top national or sporting honour as yet. Dhyan Chand was nominated for the Bharat Ratna in 2014 but lost out to Sachin Tendulkar who became the youngest to achieve the country's highest civilian honour then.
Viswanathan Anand might be 51 years old, but he is still the highest-ranked chess player from India. He was the first-ever chess player from India to attain the title of Grand Master when he achieved the feat in the year 1988. Anand has played chess at the top level for almost 36 years and still continues to do so. Besides being a World Champion during his younger days, a 50-year-old Anand also played a pivotal role in India clinching their first-ever Chess Olympiad gold in the year 2020. One of the very few players to have crossed the 2800 Elo points mark, Anand was the first-ever sportsperson to be awarded the country's highest sporting honour – Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. In all sense, Viswanathan Anand is a true jewel of the country and conferring the Bharat Ratna will just reiterate the fact.
The first and only person to win an individual Olympic gold for India, Abhinav Bindra is known for his calmness at the shooting range. His gold medal in the 10m air rifle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics not only helped kick-start a shooting revolution in the country but also instilled a sense of self-belief in the Indian athletes about winning medals at the Olympics. With his gold at the Olympics, Bindra also became the first shooter to hold the Olympics and World Championship title simultaneously. He was even awarded the Blue Cross – the International Shooting Sport Federation's (ISSF) the highest honour in the year 2018.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is widely regarded as the best ever wicketkeeper and leader to have ever graced the game of cricket. Even if you disregard his achievements with the bat and behind the stumps, it is hard to ignore the heights he scaled as a leader. The only captain to have won all the three ICC trophies, MS Dhoni is a living legend. An honorary lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army, it would be a shame if Dhoni goes down without the country's highest civilian honour.