The BCCI recently nominated Rohit Sharma for the highest sporting award in the country—the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. It is all but ascertained that Rohit Sharma will join the pious company of Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, and Virat Kohli as the only cricketers to have won the award.
Other Indian cricketers might not have won the distinguished award, but deserved it as much as any other player. Here, we have compiled a list of three such top cricketers.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda.
#1 Rahul Dravid
Much has been said and written about the ‘Wall’ of Indian cricket. If cricket is a gentleman’s game, then Rahul Dravid is the epitome of the same.
Rahul Dravid’s contribution to Indian cricket has been immense. The record books might show that he played 160 odd Test matches and scored over 13,000 runs. What they do not show is the impact he has had, especially on the younger generation that has modelled their game on Dravid’s style of play.
Whether it be the marathon 180 in his partnership with VVS Laxman in 2001 at the Eden Gardens, or the fighting 148 at Leeds in 2002, the instances are many. It is difficult to cherry-pick one which encapsulates the greatness of Rahul Dravid.
There’s an old adage that says “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. In case of Dravid, the phrase holds true, as whenever the situation got dire and the Indian team needed him to anchor the innings, he more often than not shouldered the responsibility successfully. Harsha Bhogle has rightly called Rahul Dravid the wolf who lived for the pack.
From the iconic impenetrable forward defense to the elegant wristy glance on the on-side, Dravid has given us numerous moments of insurmountable pleasure. Dravid the captain did not disappoint either, as he led India in 79 ODIs and won 42 of them.
Rahul Dravid's greatness cannot be cemented by an award, and his legacy transcends these trophies.
The player responsible for ushering a new dawn in the Indian cricket system after the turbulent fixing saga of the late ’90s was none other than Sourav Ganguly.
Fondly called ‘Dada’, the Prince of Kolkata brought a renewed sense of vigour in the modern Indian team. The team learned to play fearlessly, and started believing that winning overseas was just not a dream but indeed a doable task. Sourav Ganguly undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Indian cricket.
Ganguly was a leader par excellence. His greatest legacy was identifying players like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, and Mohammed Kaif, who later went on to bring major accolades for the Indian team. All these players were hand-picked by Dada and polished carefully under his tutelage.
India won 21 of the 49 Tests under Ganguly's captaincy, with 11 of those wins coming on overseas soil. Ganguly also lead the Indian team to the finals of the 2003 World Cup, where the team came close to winning the silverware.
Watching Ganguly in his full glory, driving and caressing the cricket ball through the off-side, is one of the ultimate sources of satisfaction that any cricket lover can think of. Ganguly's record as a player is stellar too. With 7,212 runs at an average of 42.17 in Test matches, and 11,363 runs in ODI cricket at an average of 41.02, he was an all-format player.
Ganguly was also a handy seam bowler, and his gentle pace bowling yielded important breakthroughs for India.
And of course who can forget the rowdy Dada on the balcony of Lord's, waving his jersey after winning the NatWest trophy. Sourav Ganguly laid the foundation on which modern Indian captains like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have built their respective teams.
More than Sourav Ganguly deserving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the award would be lucky to have his name attached to it.
#3 Zaheer Khan
Often, the headlines in the cricketing world are partial towards the batsmen. This is especially true in the Indian subcontinent, where batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid have been catapulted to demigod status.
Spinners make the headlines as well, but the fast bowlers never get due credit for the toil they undertake- especially in subcontinent's not-so-pace-friendly wickets. One such bowler was the left-arm pacer from Maharashtra, Zaheer Khan. The master of reverse swing, Zaheer Khan was one of the heroes of India’s World Cup-winning 2011 team.
Who can forget the league match against England in the 2011 WC, where Andrew Strauss was all set to win the watch for England. Then came Zaheer Khan, who had other plans, and single-handedly turned the match on its head. With astonishing figures of 3 for 11 in his final three overs, Zaheer Khan brought India back from the brink of defeat, to secure a tie.
India’s overseas Test series victory against England in 2007 also featured magical spells of bowling by Zaheer Khan, who tormented the English with seam, swing and reverse swing.
One of the modern English greats, Jimmy Anderson, has said on record that he learned the art of 'hiding the ball' from Zaheer Khan. Whenever ball used to reverse swing in a match, Zaheer would hide the ball behind his palm in his bowling run-up, so that the batsman could not figure out which side of the ball was the shiny one.
He is one of the best pacers that the country has ever produced. With over 300 Test wickets and 282 ODI wickets, statistics prove that he was one of the finest fast bowlers of his time.
His achievements are difficult to compile in a single article, and if one player deserved to win the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna more than anyone else, it was ‘Zak’.