The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports announced on Tuesday that Indian women’s ODI and Test team captain Mithali Raj as well as Indian men’s football team skipper Sunil Chhetri will be among the recipients for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award at the National Sports Awards 2021.

Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Neeraj Chopra is also among the awardees for the Khel Ratna. As are Ravi Kumar (wrestling), Lovlina Borgohain (boxing), Manpreet Singh (hockey) and PR Sreejesh (hockey), to name a few. A total of 12 sporting personalities, including Tokyo Paralympics medallists, will receive the award.

Meanwhile, Indian cricket team opener Shikhar Dhawan will be one of the recipients of the prestigious Arjuna Award. Vandana Katariya, a rising star of India’s women’s hockey team, is one of several Indian hockey stars who will also receive the award, while Sandeep Narwal is the only kabaddi player featuring in the Arjuna Award recipient list for 2021. 

The awards will be handed out by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on November 13 at a specially organized function at the Darbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award is given to athletes who have produced outstanding performances over a period of the previous four years. 

The Arjuna Award, meanwhile, is given for good performances over a period of the last four years besides also showing qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and having a sense of discipline.

Mithali Raj, a veteran in women’s cricket, has enjoyed a wonderful career that has spanned over 22 years, having made her debut on June 26, 1999. Only Sachin Tendulkar (22 years 91 days) has had a longer career across both men’s and women’s cricket.

Sunil Chhetri, who is the joint second-highest active goalscorer in international football, had previously won the Arjuna Award in 2011 before being bestowed with the Padma Shri in 2019. 

Winners of Khel Ratna award 2021: Neeraj Chopra (athletics), Ravi Dahiya (wrestling), PR Sreejesh (hockey), Manpreet Singh (hockey), Lovlina Borgohain (boxing), Sunil Chhetri (football), Mithali Raj (cricket), Pramod Bhagat (para-badminton), Sumit Antil (para-javelin), Avani Lekhara (para-shooting), Krishna Nagar (para-badminton) and Manish Narwal (para-shooting).

Featured photo: AFP / Punit Paranjpe