Virat Kohli – the finest Indian batsman of his generation and also the newest test captain of India – has been nominated for the Khel Ratna Award, named after Rajiv Gandhi – a former Prime Minister of India. His name has been forwarded to the concerned committee by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Ajinkya Rahane, the vice-captain of the test team, has been recommended for the Arjuna Award by the board. As of now, Kohli is enjoying a purple patch as a batsman of his class should. His stock rose further before the 2015 World Cup when he agreed to become India’s test captain after MS Dhoni decided to stand down from tests during the 2014-15 series in Australia.
The team lost the first test under his watch but Kohli’s leadership skills were praised. Ever since, India have won test series against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at their home turf and defeated South Africa – then the top test team as per ICC rankings – at home. The Indian team is supposed to start playing tests soon after IPL 9 comes to an end and a lot of fans will be looking to see how the Indian test team performs under Kohli’s watch. This renewed interest in tests can be regarded as a major achievement on Kohli’s part.
Kohli’s form as a batsman
As has been said time and again, Kohli’s class as a batsman is unparalleled and he has proved that quite often by playing a critical role in India’s victories across formats. Of late, during the ICC World T20 2016, he was adjudged the Player of the Tournament much like what happened in the previous edition of the tournament. When you take into account the talent on view at the tournament, you can jolly well understand how well he played.
The third Indian cricketer
If and when Kohli gets this award, he will join a short list of Indian cricketers who have won this award. Sachin Tendulkar was the first to have won it during the 1997-98 season and Mahendra Singh Dhoni won it in the 2007-08 season. Both these gentlemen are ones without whom the history of Indian cricket would be incomplete and it would indeed be a major privilege even for someone like Kohli to become a part of this select club.
How does Rahane stack up?
Seeing Rahane and Kohli together, one would be tempted to remember the times when both Dravid and Sachin played together. While Kohli is very much like Sachin – a maestro making the audience dance to his tunes – Rahane is like Dravid, an underrated but efficient worker who silently keeps contributing to the team’s cause. While Rahane has not featured so regularly in the limited overs teams because of his perceived inability to rotate the strike – Rahul Dravid had a similar issue in his game before 1999 when he corrected it so magnificently to become the master of tip and run in the Indian team – he has struck gold in the tests. Much like Dravid, Rahane has been the best batsman for the team in overseas assignments and ended last year with a couple of magnificent hundreds against South Africa in Delhi.
What do these awards mean?
In terms of money, these prizes do not mean much to Indian cricketers of the stature of Kohli and Rahane who perhaps get such figures by playing a single game of IPL. The Khel Ratna itself comes with a citation and an amount of INR 7.5 lakh, while the Arjuna Award also has a citation and INR 5 lakh. However, these are recognitions from the Indian Government, and thus, they carry a level of prestige that cannot be weighed in terms of money. In a way, these awards will be validations of the hard work put in by the duo. One also needs to take into account the fact that the Khel Ratna Award is the highest sporting honour the country can bestow on its citizen.
Regarding the question as to whether Kohli deserves it or not, one thing can be said for sure. From an independent perspective, he really deserves this award for the joy he brings to the country’s passionate fans with his sterling performances that are achieved with such regularity. However, we also need to take into account how the award is given, how many are awarded at the same time, and if anyone else deserves it more than him per se. After all, no one wants a repeat of the Sachin Tendulkar and Dhyan Chand controversy over Bharat Ratna, which happened during 2014. However, even if Kohli does not win this award, it would be a major disappointment but it won’t take anything away from the immense joy that he has given us over the years, and one which we expect him to provide in the days to come as well. It will not take away the high regards that we have for him.