Harbhajan Singh hasn’t played any match for India since March 2016.© AFP
Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Saturday clarified that the Punjab government withdrew his nomination for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award as he doesn’t fit in the eligibility criteria for the country’s highest sporting honour. Amid speculation over the withdrawal of his nomination, Harbhajan sought to clear the air. “I have been flooded with calls as to why Punjab Govt withdrew my name from Khel Ratna nominations. The truth is I am not eligible for Khel Ratna which primarily considers the international performances in last three years,” the 40-year-old cricketer tweeted.
“The Punjab Govt is not at fault here as they have rightly withdrawn my name. Would urge my friends in media not to speculate.”
Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi said that his department withdrew the nomination only after receiving an email from Harbhajan, stating that he didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for the award.
“We had strongly recommended his nomination. But before it could go to the screening committee or scrutiny committee, he (Harbhajan) advised us to withdraw his application,” Sodhi told PTI.
“I think he must have seen the latest criteria which the government of India has for the Khel Ratna award and may be something which he noticed that it cannot happen or maybe he is thinking over applying for some other award. Whenever he asks us, we will recommend him because he is a top sportsman and a very fine gentleman. Punjab sports department has no issues,” said Sodhi.
Last year, Harbhajan’s nomination for the Khel Ratna was rejected by the Sports Ministry on grounds that his documents had reached late.
The cricketer had requested the Punjab sports minister to intervene at the time.
Harbhajan, who has 417 Test and 269 ODI wickets respectively, is an Arjuna Awardee and was also conferred with the Padma Shri. He last represented India in Test and ODIs in 2015.
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