India have produced some of the greatest-ever cricketers over the past 80 years. While the cricketing awards limit to on-field milestones and prizes, the Indian government has its way to reward the cricketers and other sportspersons with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.
Named after India’s greatest Hockey player, Major Dhyan Chand, this award is presented by the Indian government and the Department of Sport to those sportspeople excelling in their sports over a period of four years.
It is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and comes with a cash prize of INR 25 lakh.
As of 2022, there have been 58 recipients of this award from 15 different sports.
Out of this, only 5 Indian cricketers have won the Khel Ratna Award:
In the 1997/98 ceremony, legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar became the first cricketer to receive the award for his stupendous performances in international cricket. Then, only 25 years old, Tendulkar was being hailed as the best batsman in the world and was carrying India’s hopes, expectations, and the team on his shoulders.
Tendulkar finished his career with over 34000 international runs, leading run-scorer in ODIs and Tests, and with 100 international hundreds.
In 2014, a year after his retirement, Tendulkar became the first and only cricketer to receive the Bharat Ratna award, India’s highest civilian award.
In 2007, MS Dhoni led to their only second ICC World Cup title – by winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa, defeating Pakistan in the final. Then the 26-year-old Indian skipper, MS Dhoni, was conferred with the prestigious award. Dhoni’s father Paan Singh received the prestigious award on his behalf as he was away in Sri Lanka.
Dhoni marched India to the number 1 Test ranking in 2010, and a year later, captained India to a home ODI World Cup victory, ending the wait of 28 years for an ODI World Cup. Dhoni retired from international cricket in 2020.
In 2018, the then India skipper Virat Kohli was awarded the prestigious award, presented to him by the then President of India Ramnath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
Leading up to the award ceremony in 2018, Kohli had been in incredible form, amassing big runs across formats and had emerged as the run-machine for Team India years ago.
Currently, Kohli is the 6th leading run-scorer of all time with close to 25000 runs, and has notched up 74 international hundreds. In 2020, the ICC had named Kohli the Player of the Decade.
In 2020, opener Rohit Sharma was honored with the K-R Award for his excellent batsmanship over the years.
Sharma shone brightly during the 2019 World Cup in England- 648 runs with 5 centuries in the tournament – and Sharma has become one of the India’s greatest-ever openers.
Former India women’s team skipper Mithali Raj was conferred with the prestigious award in 2021. Raj, who made her international debut in 1999, retired in 2022 as the leading run-scorer in women’s ODIs. She had a glittering career of 23 years, wherein she amassed 7805 ODI runs and 2364 T20I runs.