Last week India’s annual sports awards were announced. Our Amdavadi friend, Rupesh Shah, finally managed to convince panellists to include his name this time — thereby ending his six-year-long wait for the momentous day.
I strongly feel that among this year’s awardees, Rupesh definitely deserves to book a berth in the list, more than anyone else. Not because we reside in the same town, but because it is a reward for his perseverance, self belief, and above all, patience. Or rather, let’s put it as ‘Silence’. Rupesh has justified the adage: Silence is, indeed, golden!
After bagging a bronze at Doha 2006, Rupesh went on to win the World Billiards title at Singapore in 2007. Despite winning the world title, the cueist did not feature in the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Ashoka Hall.
By his own confession, the lack of a national award in his gallery of trophies, gave Rupesh severe inferiority complex. But he didn’t allow the stigma to overshadow his prowess on the green baize.
Fortunately for Rupesh, legendary Geet Sethi — a stalwart and one of the calmest sportspersons I have ever interacted with — was by his side to guide him. Moreover, family and coach, Subhash Agarwal too, kept egging Rupesh on. His appetite for medals never diminished and kept him going on with full focus.
He was regularly among the top four finishers in the national championships.
Rupesh raised his performance bar last year and added another World billiards trophy to his kitty in 2012. Earlier this year, he defeated Alok Kumar to win the Asian Championship at Indore, making a strong contender for Arjuna. During this period, the cueist had to fight demons in his mind. But he never reacted publicly nor provided fodder to the media, like his counterparts in other games did, like discus thrower Krishna Poonia and Paralympian Girisha.
The duo opposed the panel’s recommendation of shooter Ronjan Sodhi for Khel Ratna award, highest sports award of the country. In fact, Poonia has gone one step ahead by approaching sports minister Jitendra Singh, who assured that justice will be done. For the record, Poonia neither won any medals at the London Olympics nor could deliver at the IAAF world championships in Moscow last week.
Where is the sportsman spirit? Poonia hasn’t achieved any great feat in the last one year, to be recommended for Khel Ratna.
Sodhi, on the other hand, has a World Cup silver to his credit.
Also, this is not the end of the road for Poonia, either. She has next year’s Asian Games and Commonwealth Games to put a strong case in future.
I agree that all sportspersons have a right to protest, but that doesn’t mean they have to go overboard and knock on power doors. Not only absurd, such controversies devalue the awards and sportspersons’ accomplishments.
Moreover, overruling the panel’s decision means setting an undue precedent. What if, in future, a panel involving Poonia’s decision is challenged and overruled by a minister?
In such a situation, it would be better if every sportsperson in the country queues up on a particular day outside the minister’s chamber with their file of achievements, like college admissions, a month before the awards are announced.
I hope the Singh’s wisdom will prevail and he will not overrule former world billiards champion, Michael Ferreira-led panel’s decision, and embarrass them. The responsibility now lies squarely with Singh to keep the awards away from such petty politicking.