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I never slammed the government for Sania’s Khel Ratna: Advani

Sania Mirza at Taj Mahal

 New Delhi: Hurt at being misquoted about his stance on the National Sports Awards, ace cueist Pankaj Advani today said he never took a jibe at any sportsperson and his critical remarks on Sania Mirza getting the Khel Ratna were nothing but a figment of somebody’s imagination.

Advani was reported to have slammed the government for Sania getting the Khel Ratna even when deserving cueists were left out of the Arjuna list. But the 13-time World champion cueist insists that his remarks were totally misconstrued.

“I mean what I said about the Arjuna award and the whole selection process about the awards has been completely taken out of context. In fact the last thing I would want to do as a Khel Ratna awardee is to disrespect someone else who has just received it for her exceptional performances over the last so many years,” Advani told PTI.

“I think Sania has done extremely well for her country and in fact she broke at the international circuit about the same time as I did, over 10 years ago. I would also like to tell certain sections of the media to refrain from giving their representation of my statements or remarks that may cause damage to somebody’s image and to the sport as a whole,” Advani, who received the Khel Ratna in 2006 and the Arjuna in 2004, added.

Noted cueists Vidya Pillai, Chitra Magimairaj and Sourav Kothari missed out on the Arjuna Award this year and Advani said that his only contention was that the process of selecting players for the honour should be consistent.

“My point was only related to the Arjuna Awards, because cuesports players have been performing exceptionally well and I was surprised to see none of their names on the list of the Arjuna awardees this year. The guidelines that are being followed for one sport is not being followed for the cue sport players. Who am I to judge, who deserves an award and who doesn’t?,” he said.

“All I am saying is that if there is a particular guideline or policy then let it be same for everyone. I was not hitting out at the government. People are saying that I am panning the government or panning X, Y, Z sportsperson. I mean who am I? In fact I have the greatest respect for sportspersons.

“Being a sportsperson I know what it takes to reach and achieve at the top. And I know that the government also has been supporting us for so long. Yes, there are certain things and there is nothing wrong in just saying that listen, if the policies are going to be followed for certain sportspersons, all I am requesting the government is to follow it for all sports equally.

Advani reiterated that for him, the contentious issue is inconsistent policy.

“There should be consistency. I am not saying what has happened is wrong or it cannot be corrected. Ofcourse, it can be corrected. Next year maybe the policies will be followed for everyone and maybe things will be streamlined. I am not saying things should change now.

“Once the awards are given, I would like to congratulate every winner who has received it. They have a lot in their respective sports as well,” he added.

Advani, who has been India’s poster boy of cue sport for the last decade and more, called for equality in sport.

“I am basically speaking about a very broad topic over here and that is about equality in sport. I am not there is a bias or whatever it is. All I am saying is that if someone deserves it, let there case be considered with hundreds of others.

“But don’t ignore someone and put someone else up and say that the guidelines are only meant for Olympic sports, only meant for X or Y sport. It should be inclusive of all sport. So whether it comes to deciding the awards and whether it comes to handing out cash incentives, which by the way haven’t come for five years. Let’s be fair, let’s be equal,” he said.

“The awards are over now, I don’t want to take credit away from the people who have received the awards and if someone has not received an award from cue sport then probably they are waiting for another exceptional performance. Probably they will get it next year.

“But I feel bad because I have received these awards and the process was very fair, I still believe that the awards hold a lot of meaning and importance and that’s why I am saying as a fellow cue sport player that we are feeling a bit let down. I am just requesting the government to look into it and I am sure they will do it,” he added.

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