The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Denying Kumble the Padma Shri was unfair
- Fragile body hindering Agarkarís progress

The last calendar year has arguably been the most successful in the history of Indian cricket. The recent efforts, especially the latest against Pakistan has earned India plaudits from every sphere.

The packed season ahead with the mini World Cup in the form of ICC Championship in England, promises a great cricketing. The BCCI has done a fine job with the introduction of pension schemes. At the same time, it has also made considerable progress in implementing the contract system for the players, which is being given final touches at the moment. The playersí contract, although some may feel has come belatedly, is a welcome initiative for the players to approach the game in a much more professional manner.

The cricketers are not only enjoying the recent success in terms of growing sponsorship engagements but some of them are also receiving prestigious national awards. Sourav Ganguly, the most successful captain India arguably ever has had, and his deputy Rahul Dravid have been honoured with the Padma Shri award recently. Dravid, who had always been a keen communicator, has very rightly said that awards are great reminders to progress to the next level.

Now, in the midst of all cricketing glory, spare a thought for Indiaís silent assassin, Anil Kumble. The Union ministry of sports, while finalising the name of the awardees, has surprisingly missed the name of Anil Kumble, who has been the backbone of Indiaís bowling for 14 years.

Although cricket is a pronounced batsmanís game, missing out in recognising Anilís contribution is an inexcusable act. Delaying such awards is as good as ignoring. As a former cricketer I can tell you that nothing means more to the players than national honours like Arjuna Award, Padma Shri or Khel Ratna.

Of late, various cricket sponsors have jumped onto the bandwagon in having their own awards ceremonies on almost monthly basis. In spite of these awards carrying substantially huge amounts as rewards, every player, I can assure you, longs for a national title. We, Anilís teammates, were confident that he would be conferred with the Padma Shri when he achieved the Ďperfect tení in 1999.

The recognition may have eluded Anil, but he was richly rewarded with the great respect he earned not only from his own teammates but from teams all over the world. To me, a performer who doesnít get the headlines as often as he should, is truly a winner.

The Indian teamís preparation for the Asia Cup is supposedly the best so far. A gruelling fitness camp for two weeks followed by a 10-day cricket camp and adequate breaks in between the two camps has kept the players in sound mind and body.

The selections for the Asia Cup have been very much on expected lines. Ajit Agarkar, who had to make way for Ashish Nehra, must have been left disappointed. The enigmatic Ajit had grown in confidence during the Australian series with a match-winning haul of six wickets. But I am afraid that Ajitís fragile body has somehow failed to come to terms with the demanding international schedule. A truly great potential, he has been a victim of injuries.

Itís not fair to lose out on someone with an experience of 130 odd ODI games behind him. I still believe that Indiaís hopes of winning the World Cup 2007 lies in the likes of Ajit and others. But I only hope and pray that the selection committee and the team management have counselled the players with good reasons for being left out. (PTI)

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