Mumbai Indians' Rohit Sharma in action against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Rohit Sharma, ace Indian batsman and skipper of the Mumbai Indians, has received a timely confidence-booster ahead of the 13th edition of the IPL in the UAE, with confirmation that he will receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India’s highest sporting accolade.

Sharma, who enjoyed a stellar 2019 season, is among five sportsmen in the National Sports Day honours list and only the fourth cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kholi to be bestowed with the distinction.

This is the first time since the award was introduced in 1991-92 that as many as five sportspersons will figure on Khel Ratna when it will be presented on August 29.

The award comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of $10,000.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were among the first people to congratulate Sharma on his accomplishment.

“Congratulations for being conferred with the Rajiv Ghani Khel Ratna Award, 2020, India’s highest sporting honour. He is only the fourth Indian cricketer to receive this award. We are proud of you Hit man” the BBC tweeted through their twitter handle @BCCI.

Whether he’s scoring centuries or winning awards, it appears that Sharma has a big fan club in the BCCI, the sport’s governing body in India, who unlike other leading sports bodies including Fifa, ITF or the IAAF have extended themselves to congratulate an individual sportsman.

Besides Sharma, the other Khel Ratna recipients are Mariyappan T (para athletics), Manika Batra (table tennis), Vinesh Phogat (wrestling), Ritu Rani (hockey).

The Khel Ratna is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The recipients are selected by a committee constituted by the Ministry and are honoured for their “spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports over a period of four years” at international level.

The first ever recipient of the award was five-time chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand in 1992.

Also, for the first time, a total of 27 athletes will be bestowed with the Arjuna award, including cricketers Ishant Sharma and Deepti Sharma.

Sprinter Dutee Chand, archer Atanu Das, boxer Lovlina Borgohain, footballer Sandesh Jhingan, golfer Aditi Ashok, hockey player Akashdeep Singh, shooters Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, badminton doubles pair Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, rower Dattu Bhokanal, tennis player Divij Sharan and wrestlers Divya Kakran and Rahul Aware are also among the winners.

The names of past Khel Ratna awardees, wrestler Sakshi Malik and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, were not considered by sports minister Kiren Rijiju for the Arjuna. The decision of bestowing the Arjuna on them was left to the discretion of Rijiju.

2020 Rajiv Ghandi Khel Ratna Award Winners

Rohit Sharma
Scored 556 runs at an average of 92.66 in five Test matches and 1,657 ODI runs at 57.30. in 2019 He also scored five centuries at the 2019 World Cup.
Vinesh Phogat
Won two bronze medals in 2019 — at the Asian Championship and World Championship.
Mariyappan Thangavelu
India’s first gold medal winner in Paralympics highjumper Thangavelu won a bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championship in 2019.
Rani Rampal
Captai Rampla led the Indian team to victory over the USA in the qualifiers to secure their place at the Tokyo Olympics.
Manika Batra
First Indian woman to win a table tennis title at the Commonwealth Games she is also a recipient of the Arjuna Award in 2018.