Special Correspondent

Says Ekalavya award was ‘too little, too late’

Noted swimmer Nisha Millet supports Advani

Advani wants clear guidelines from the State Government

BANGALORE: Should a World champion beg for recognition? Precisely that’s what Pankaj Advani was forced to do here as the World billiards champion spoke in anguish of being denied his rightful recognition by the State and the Union Governments.

Advani’s impromptu media interaction on Sunday came after he rejected the Karnataka State Government’s Ekalavya Award, which was given away on Saturday and the ace cueist chose to stay away from the function, terming it as “ too little and too late.”

“This award should have come when I won a National title eight years ago, and not after I had won an Arjuna award (2004) and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award last year. What am I supposed to do with a shawl and sandalwood carving they give in an award function like the Ekalavya,” Advani asked. More than the Ekalavya Award what rankled Advani was the total apathy of the Government for the past four years.

“I had won four World titles and there had been no word of appreciation or grants for my effort. They have wasted no time in other sports such as cricket, where they announced awards of Rs. 5 lakh,” Advani said.

Obviously, he was referring to the State Government’s cash prize to cricketer Robin Uthappa and the Indian bowling coach, Venkatesh Prasad, in the wake of ICC World Twenty20 triumph. “Why this indifference? What more should I do to prove myself?” asked the champion.

Proper guidelines

Advani demanded that the State Government should come out with proper guidelines as regards to announcing awards and cash prizes. “They should clearly state what a World champion deserves to get,” he added.

Arvind Savur, Advani’s mentor, chose to compare the accolades and cash bonanza to cricketers and lack of it for his ward. “Indian cricketers won a World Cup, albeit a Twenty20 one after 24 years, but Advani has won the World title four times in four years, doesn’t he merit a better deal?” queried Savur.

Advani’s good friends and noted sportspersons including swimmers Nisha Millet, Shikha Tandon, former hockey international Ashish Ballal, among others were present at the meeting, lending support. Nisha also chose to speak about the plight of sportspersons in Karnataka. “We too have undergone such shabby treatment, promised of sites and cash prizes after the National Games in 1997 and 1999. We had to run from pillar to post in vain, though we got a token recognition much later. “Giving the Ekalavya award to Advani is meaningless, he should be conferred the Karnataka Ratna award and be given a decent cash prize and a site that they had always been promising,” Nisha said.

“I hope we are not forced to go on a hunger strike like the hockey players on this issue,” she added as a parting shot. The KSBA officials, President, Pandu Prakash, and BSFI Vice-President, S. Balasubramaniam, explained their efforts to get Advani due recognition. “Virtually, we have been knocking on every closed door and we now are thinking of gathering support through like-minded sportspersons and other associations to support our cause,” said Balasubramaniam.

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