India's limited-overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma has been nominated for the prestigious 'Khel Ratna', the BCCI announced on Saturday, acknowledging the prolific batsman's stupendous performance in the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Rohit's opening partner Shikhar Dhawan has been once again nominated for the Arjuna award along with the team's senior-most pace bowler Ishant Sharma.
The period of consideration is between January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019. In this period, Rohit has scored 4377 runs at 65.33 in ODIs, including 20 centuries and 16 fifties. He was also the highest run-scorer in the 2019 World Cup. Adding to that, Rohit (4) has the most number of centuries in T20Is and has now also cemented his place in the Test set-up as an opener. He was also named the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year for 2019.
Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are the only cricketers who have won this prestigious award.
"Rohit Sharma has set new benchmarks as a batsman and achieved scores people thought were not possible in the shorter formats of the game. We feel he is worthy of getting the prestigious Khel Ratna award for his commitment, conduct, consistency and his leadership skills," BCCI President Sourav Ganguly said in a statement.
The 34-year-old Dhawan holds the record for the fastest Test century on debut and is the only batsman in the world to have won two consecutive golden bats (for most runs) in the ICC Champions Trophy. He is also the quickest Indian batsman to reach 2000 and 3000 runs in ODIs and second-fastest Indian to score 4000 and 5000 runs in ODIs. In 136 ODIs, he has scored 5688 runs with 17 hundreds apart from 2315 runs in 34 Tests (7 hundreds) and 1588 runs in 61 T20Is.
Dhawan was in fact nominated in 2018 alongside Smriti Mandhana but missed out on the award. “Shikhar has been consistently scoring at the top and his performances in the ICC events have been significant,” Ganguly said.
For 31-year-old Ishant, it was a long wait to earn the nomination as he is the senior-most member in the current Test set-up with 97 Tests under his belt apart from 80 ODIs and 14 T20Is. Ishant has 297 Test wickets under his belt and by the end of the year is expected to be the second pacer in the country after Kapil Dev to complete 100 Test matches.
Talking about Ishant, Ganguly said: "Ishant Sharma is the most senior member of the Test squad and his contribution has been vital in Indian team’s long run as the No. 1 Test side. Fast bowlers are prone to injuries and Ishant has had a fair share of them but he has fought hard to be back on the park every time."
In the women's category, all-rounder Deepti Sharma was BCCI's pick for the Arjuna for her consistent show in both ODIs and T20Is in the past three years. "Deepti is a genuine all-rounder and her contribution to the team has been vital," said the BCCI president.
Jay Shah, the Honorary Secretary of the BCCI, also had a lot of praise for the four cricketers.
"There is no bigger honour than representing your country and being nominated for national awards is a recognition of your hard work. In the last five years, Rohit Sharma has not only raised the bar with his individual performances but has also led the Indian team with distinction in Virat Kohli’s absence. Under his captaincy, India famously won the Asia Cup in UAE, the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka and registered many bilateral series wins at home. Rohit has been a perfect team-man and a mentor to youngsters. He deserves the highest sporting honour in the country," he said.
"Ishant Sharma has been a warhorse while Shikhar Dhawan lifts the team’s morale with his fearless approach. Deepti Sharma has contributed a lot in Indian team’s consistent showing in the big-ticket events."