Sachin Tendulkar has finally broken world record of Brian Lara and has become first ever player to score 12,000 test runs!!! Amazing…
This has again opened usual debates such as ‘Is Sachin greatest cricketer ever?’ or ‘Is sachin the greatest Indian sportsperson?’…one of such debates that is favourite to electronic media is ‘Should Sachin be awarded Bharat Ratna?’ This debate has been doing rounds of late – the most recent being in the beginning of year 2008 (http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/If-anyone-has-to-be-given-Bharat-Ratna-its-Sachin/265099/)
For the uninitiated, Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award, the most prestigeous honor an Indian can get! The other three awards are Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan (in the ascending order)…All the information about awards and award winners till date can be found at: http://india.gov.in/myindia/advsearch_awards.php – a very interesting yet not very popular resource…
The reason for this article is to put forward my thoughts on perennial question: ‘Should Sachin be given Bharat-Ratna’
I look at it from 2 perspective…firstly: ‘Should a sportsperson be given Bharat Ratna’…some feel that Sports is not the category one should even consider for Bharat Ratna. The award is strictly for those who make India proud by their achievements and contribute towards India’s progress – and hence it should only be given to the likes of politicians, leaders, social activists, scolars, scientists et al. Well, yes I do agree to the first part – that it is for somebody who makes India proud, but why not include Sportpersons in that list? If musician (U. Bismillah Khan) and singers (Lata Mangeshkar and M S Subbalaxmi) can be conferred with that honor why not a sportsperson who makes India proud in his domain i.e. Sports!
So I am all for giving Bharat ratna to sportperson as well…
Now the second part of the question: ‘Should Sachin be given Bharat Ratna’…now here I have somewhat different views. No doubt that Sachin deserves Bharat Ratna, but in my opinion he is not the most deserving or if he is, there is someone else as well — and that name is Vishwanathan Anand, India’s first chess Grand Master and current world champion!
Vishy has always received less attention from people and media – even though he has been at par (or even ahead of) Sachin in his field. This probably has to do with cricket being the exceedinly popular game in India and also because chess does not have that appeal to attract any common man.
Having said this: The government of India has done its bit to acknowledge Vishy’s effort and achievements at every occasion – which is actuall a great and pleasantly surprising thing.
Very few might know that Vishwanathan Anand has achieved all the important state honors that Sachin has – and that too much earlier!
Have a look at his illustrious career: http://tnq.in/Vishwaawards.html
While Sachin has been awarded with Padma Shree (1999) and Padma Vibhushan (2008), Vishy had received Padma Shree in 1988 – way ahead of Sachin! He then was conferred with Padma Bhushan in 2001 (the Padma award that Sachin has not received). Padma Shree (1988) was immediately after becoming India’s first Grand Master (and World’s youngest at that time);  the Padma Vibhushan was after winning his first ever World Championship title in 2000.
Interestingly, when Sachin’s name was being discussed last year (or early this year) for Bharat Ratna, nobody even discussed Vishwanathan Anand’s name even though he won the World Chess Championship in 2007 (which he is currently defending in the match against Kramnik). But eventually, Sachin and Vishy – both received Padma Vibhushan award – the only higher award now remaining is Bharat Ratna.
This is not all. 
Arjuna Award – given by the government of India to to recognize outstanding achievement in National sports was given to Vishy in 1985 (!!!) whereas Sachin received the same in 1994.  Then ‘Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna’ award – India’s highest honour for achievements in sports was constituted in 1991 and Vishy was the first recepient of that award. Sachin received the same in 1997/98.
The intention of giving all these details is not to undermine Sachin’s achievement in any ways…I am a die-hard fan of Sachin -:)
But the point here is one should not get carried away by popularity cricket in India enjoys over chess and constant media attention Sachin gets. Vishy’s contribution is equally important – in fact, in my opinion – more important! Let me explain, why…
There are lots of legendary musicians and singers in India – from previous generations and current generation. U. Bismillah Khan, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, U. Zakir Husain, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, U. Amjad Ali Khan and many more…(sorry in case I have missed on some obvious and most deserving names)
But if you look at the list: Only Ravi Shankar(1999) and Bismillah Khan (2001), from above list, have received Bharat Ratna… that does not mean that others were any less deserving. One reason could be both these not just contributed a lot in their own fields (Satar and Shehnai respect
ively), but they elevated the status of that instrument to a n
ew level! 
…and I think Vishy Anand has done same to chess in India!!!
Cricket has always been popular in India – with Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Kapil, Azhar etc. being stars during their times. Sachin, undoubtedly is in different league – but still he represents a game that was already very popular in India. He did not bring in any revolution in cricket.
Whereas Vishy was India’s first Grand Master, at a time when chess was not very popular in India – certainly not a career option. But Vishy changed it all…
Today India has as many as 17 grand masters (GM), 6 women grandmasters (WGM), 57  International Masters (IM) (many of whom may become GM in coming years!) and 19 Women International Masters (WIM).
What is interesting is – most of these players were born in 1980s or later – the time when Vishy started his professional chess career. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that Vishy was the inspiration for these youngsters to becoe what they have become today…
In that respect Vishy raised status the game of chess in India…he contributed much more to chess than Sachin did to cricket in India. And hence I think that Vishy should be considered for Bharat ratna award ahead of Sachin – whenever they are considered for the honor!
Sachin has already set new world record for maximum runs in tests…it would be interesting to see if Vishy wins the current World Champiionship and retains his title (which I guess he will…)…then it would be interesting to see whether Vishy’s name pops up in the media for probable contenders for Bharat-ratna…
~ Kaustubh
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