Bharat Ratna for Sachin? There are worthies who haven't got Padma Shri!

Vijay Merchant (left), whose first-class batting average is next only to Don Bradman, has not got even the Padma Shri. Anil Kumble (centre), who took 956 international wickets, and Rahul Dravid, Test cricket’s second highest run-getter, have got nothing higher than the Padma Shri © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The nation is awash with demands for conferring the Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian national honour. However, few realise that some legendary names in Indian cricket have not been awarded even the Padma Shri – the lowest ranking among the Padma awards.

The Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri follow the Bharat Ratna in order of importance.

 

In all, 41 cricketing personalities have been bestowed the three Padma Awards. Sachin Tendulkar is the only cricketer to win the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour. Nine cricketers have won the Padma Bhushan and 31 have been awarded the Padma Shri.

 

A cursory glance at the Padma Awardees over the years makes one realise the glaring omissions; men whose efforts deserved to be rewarded by these high honours. To make matters worse, there are a few anomalies, whereby, a less deserving player has got a higher honour when compared to someone who has contributed a lot more to the country’s cause on the cricket field.

 

Greats like Vijay Manjrekar and Subhash Gupte and men who followed them like Mohinder Amarnath, Ravi Shastri, Dilip Doshi, Javagal Srinath and Yuvraj Singh haven’t been decorated with the Padma Shri! Gupte, arguably, is India’s greatest leg-spinner. Srinath is India’s second highest wicket-taker in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and also has a good Test record. Shastri contributed immensely with his all-round abilities and also opened the batting with good success. Amarnath and Yuvraj are architects of India’s two World Cup victories – in 1983 and 2011 respectively.

 

Now, turn your attention to those who have been honoured by the Government of India. Jasu Patel, a player whose only claim to fame is bowling India to their maiden Test win over Australia. Apart from his spell of 14 for 124 in that famous win, there isn’t much to boast about. In fact, he played just six other Tests in which he took a total of 15 wickets. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1960, the year after the Kanpur Test victory. In comparison, Gupte bowled numerous match-winning spells and yet didn’t find the prestigious award in his living room.

 

Gundappa Viswanath scored a hundred on Test debut in 1969 and was promptly named amongst the Padma Shri awardees in the year 1971. He went on to fulfil his early promise and scripted numerous epics, but his case and the one of Jasu Patel signify a “jumping the gun” policy in naming the winners. On the basis of a stellar performance of two, these players have been admired by the highest authority in the country- something they would cherish for life. In fact, Viswanath became worthy of the award as the years progressed. In the midst of such distractions, full careers like that of Amarnath, Gupte, Srinath and the rest have gone un-noticed, unheeded and un-rewarded.

 

Srinivas Venkatraghavan, one of the famous spin quartet who bowled India to many victories in Tests, played his last international game in the year 1983 and was decorated by the Padma Shri 20 years later.

Padma Bhushan for a player who averaged 8.25 in Tests!

The most surprising inclusion is that of Vijay Anand, better known as Maharajah of Vizianagram. Vizzy, as he was called, was a prince who had a horrendous Test and first-class record. He captained India on their tour to England in 1936 and was involved in a bitter confrontation with Lala Amarnath. If somebody who averages 8.25 in Test cricket and 18.60 from 47 first-class games deserve an honour as high as the Padma Bhushan, the merit of the Padma award most certainly deserves to be questioned.

 

Syed Kirmani, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly are some of the players who have won the Padma Shri. Seeing the name “Vizzy” in the list for an award higher than that bestowed upon them would make their blood boil. How can Test cricket’s second highest run-scorer, Dravid, be named in a category lower than a player who never proved his cricketing abilities! Furthermore, a man like Vijay Merchant, whose first-class average is only behind the great Donald Bradman, who was also a well known philanthropist, also does not figure in any of the Padma awards.

 

Chandu Borde has been one of the few cricketers to have won two Padma Awards. Alongside Borde in the Padma Bhushan winners list are Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev – two of the biggest legends in Indian cricket who went on to become the highest run-getter and wicket-taker in Tests. Borde averaged 35-plus in 55 Tests and 52 wickets at over 46. As H Natarajan, the CricketCountry’s Executive Editor wrote in one of his articles, “either those deciding on the honour have elevated Borde to a level more than he deserves, or they have brought down the achievements of Gavaskar and Kapil.”

 

The fact that no cricketer has been named in this year’s Padma award list jells with the disappointment of the series defeats inEngland and Australia. Indian cricket is at low ebb after these consecutive overseas series defeats, but one mustn’t forget thatIndia have been poor only since the start of the England tour. They had won the biggest prize last year – the World Cup, a dream envisioned by a billion people.

Maybe, it just another chapter in the poor thought process in awarding Padma awards

 

The full list of cricket personalities who have received the Padma Awards:
Padma Vibhushan

 

Sachin Tendulkar (2008)

 

Padma Bhushan

 

CK Nayadu (1956)

 

Maharajah of Vizianagram (Vizzy) -1958

 

Vinoo Mankad (1973)

 

Sunil Gavaskar (1980)

 

Raja Bhalendra Singh (1983). (He, in all likelihood, got it for his services as President of the Indian Olympic Association and member of the International Olympic Committee for 45 years.)

 

DB Deodhar (1991)

 

Kapil Dev (1991)

 

Lala Amarnath (1991)

 

Chandu Borde (2002)

 

Padma Shri

 

Jasu Patel (1960)

 

Vijay Hazare (1960)

 

Nari Contractor (1962)

 

Polly Umrigar (1962)

 

Mushtaq Ali (1963)

 

MJ Gopalan (1964)

 

D.B Deodhar (1965)

 

MAK Pataudi (1967)

 

Chandu Borde (1969)

 

Bishan Singh Bedi (1970)

 

EAS Prasanna (1970)

 

GR Viswanath (1971)

 

Ajit Wadekar (1972)

 

BS Chandrasekhar (1972)

 

Farokh Engineer (1973)

 

Pankaj Roy (1975)

 

Kapil Dev (1982)

 

Syed Kirmani (1982)

 

Chuni Goswami – 1984. He was honoured for his role as one of India’s top footballer than a first-class cricketer for Bengal.

 

Dilip Vengsarkar (1987)

 

Mohammad Azharuddin (1988)

 

Sachin Tendulkar (1999)

 

Srinivas Venkatraghavan (2003)

 

Rahul Dravid (2004)

 

Sourav Ganguly (2004)

 

Anil Kumble (2005)

 

Harbhajan Singh (2009)

 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2009)

 

Ramakant Achrekar (2010)

 

Virender Sehwag (2010)

 

VVS Laxman (2011)

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)