Mithali Raj and Ravichandran Ashwin are the top cricketers the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) has advocated to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award -India’s highest sporting recognition this year.
The BCCI has also recommended KL Rahul, pacer Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan for the Arjuna award- a government honour to recognize exceptional achievements in national sport. Shikhar Dhawan missed out on the award last year.
Raj is India’s Women’s Test and ODI captain and recently completed 22 years in international cricket. She is also the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket and the only woman to surpass the 7000-run mark in Women’s ODI matches. Raj also holds the record for most half-centuries in WODIs. Under her captaincy, India has made it to the 50 overs World Cup twice-2005 and in 2017.
On the other hand, off-spinning all-rounder R. Ashwin has been outstanding on the men’s ODI side. His consistent performance has seen him take 413 wickets in 79 Tests and 150 and 42 wickets in ODIs and T20I’s, respectively. During India’s successful tour of Australia recently, Ashwin took 12 wickets in three matches, and during the series against England at home, he took 32 wickets and scored a century. Over and above that, he finished the World Test Championship cycle as the highest wicket-taker with 71 strikes. Ashwin, like Raj, is also an Arjuna awardee. He was awarded the Arjuna in 2014.
Meanwhile, Shikar Dhawan, who is poised to captain India in the limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, is a front runner for Arjuna. The senior batsman has scored 5977 runs in 142 ODIs, 2315 and 1673 Test and T20 runs, each.
The right-handed batsman and wicket-keeper Rahul has continued to be one of the most important white ball batters for the team in the last few years. He has 2006 runs in Tests and 1509 and 1557 runs in ODIs and T20Is, respectively.
At the same time, Jasprit Bumrah has fast risen the ranks to become one of India’s premier fast bowlers. He has 83,109 and 59 wickets in Tests, ODIs, and T20Is, respectively, in his five-year-long career this far.
The Ministry of Sports bestowed 74 recipients with the awards last year. The prize money increased significantly, with the Khel Ratna awardees walking away with Rs 25 lakh and Arjuna awardees Rs 15 lakh.
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