The two other recipients of the Khel Ratna award are Sachin Tendulkar (1997) and MS Dhoni (2007): Getty
The Government of India, on Tuesday (September 25), conferred India Men's captain Virat Kohli with the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award while honouring the India Women's T20 vice-captain Smriti Mandhana with the Arjuna Award.
Kohli is only the third Indian cricketer to be awarded the highest sporting honour in the country while Mandhana is the tenth woman cricketer to win the Arjuna award.
Kohli has been in imperious touch for an elongated stretch of time with his most recent exploits as a batsman coming to the fore during the recently concluded England tour, where he finished with 593 runs in five Tests, including two hundreds and three fifties.
Kohli's overall tally of 58 international hundreds has already seen him break into the top five all-time centurions across all formats. The 29-year-old is currently ranked one on both ODI and Test list.
"The Khel Ratna award is yet another feather in Virat Kohli's cap. He was named the ICC Player of the Year in 2017, he swept the BCCI awards and has now been conferred with the highest sporting award, which is truly a remarkable feat. His hunger for runs is insatiable and I am sure under his leadership, the Indian team will be a top-ranked side in all three formats," BCCI acting honorary secretary, Amitabh Choudhary, said.
"We are extremely proud that Virat Kohli and Smriti Mandhana are being conferred with top honours by the Government of India. Virat is just the third Indian cricketer to receive the prestigious Khel Ratna award. This is a testimony to his work ethic, dedication and unwavering focus. He has led India with distinction and at the same time, set new records with the bat. Playing different formats of the game, Virat has shown amazing consistency leading the side by example. This Indian team is one of the fittest sides in world cricket and a lot of credit must go to the Indian captain for bringing about this transformation," Vinod Rai, Chairman of the Committee of Administrators, said.
Mandhana too has been in impregnable form since the final of the 2017 World Cup in England where she was infamously dismissed for a duck. Since then though, she has scored the most number of runs for an Indian batter across both formats of the game.
And playing for Western Storm at the Kia Super League in England, she amassed 421 runs - the highest aggregate across any season of the KSL or WBBL - at a blockbuster strike-rate of 175, to become the first ever Indian cricketer to win the player of the tournament award.
"I am very happy to see Smriti get the award at such a young age. She has scored centuries in Australia, England, South Africa and proved that she thrives in difficult conditions," Diana Edulji, member of the CoA, said. "I am sure this award will push more people to take note of the progress the Indian Women's team is making. Young girls playing cricket emulate the stars and Smriti is setting a fine example both on and off the field."
The two other recipients of the Khel Ratna award are Sachin Tendulkar (1997) and MS Dhoni (2007), while the other women cricketers to have been rewarded with the Arjuna award are Shantha Rangaswamy (1976), Diana Edulji (1983), Shubhangi Kulkarni (1985), Sandhya Agarwal (1986), Mithali Raj (2003), Anju Jain (2005), Anjum Chopra (2006), Jhulan Goswami (2010) and Harmanpreet Kaur (2017).