With the Board of Control for Cricket in India not recommending Sachin Tendulkar, there is intense speculation whether the batting maestro could miss out on the prestigious Bharat Ratna this year.
The sports ministry on Wednesday forwarded the names of hockey legend Dhyan Chand, Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra and mountaineer Tenzing Norgay for the award, but Tendulkar's was missing from the list as no recommendation had come from the BCCI.
"Whatever number of recommendations the sports ministry has received for the Bharat Ratna, we have forwarded them to the home ministry and the prime minister," Sports minister Ajay Maken said.
"To my knowledge, we have received recommendations from hockey and shooting federations so far," he informed.
The BCCI, on its part, maintained that no recommendation from the Board was required for Tendulkar to be considered for the honour.
"I don't know whether the BCCI had to recommend his name. I thought it is the prerogative of the government," said BCCI president N Srinivasan in Mumbai.
"But if you ask me whether he deserves it, it is an altogether different question. He certainly deserves it," he added.
Maken said his ministry has ordered the concerned staff to forward any recommendation from other sports federations to the home ministry and the prime minister.
IPL chairman and senior BCCI functionary Rajiv Shukla said the Board only makes recommendations for the Arjuna award and insisted that in case of the Bharat Ratna, it is individuals who are expected to forward their names.
"In awards like these, individuals make their recommendations, and then the government panel makes the final decision. When Sachin got a Padma Shri, or Padma Bhushan, or Padma Vibushan, then also BCCI didn't give any names.
"The decision was taken in the same way -- individuals write in and then government on its part, takes a decision. BCCI doesn't give any names for this, BCCI just writes in for the Arjuna award," Shukla said.
The scope of the Bharat Ratna, which was earlier restricted to the field of "exceptional services in arts, literature and science, and in recognition of public services of the highest order" has been recently expanded to include the performance of the highest order "in any field of human endeavour" which has enabled sportspersons to dream of the honour.