'Nobody has Dhoni's record of championship in three formats.'
'Every cricketer, every Indian, will agree to that.'
No sooner did Mahendra Singh Dhoni announce his retirement from international cricket on the evening of Independence Day 2020 tributes have poured in from his team-mates, cricketers around the world, politicians, celebrities and others from across the spectrum.
One extraordinary demand came from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, where Congress legislator P C Sharma, demanded that the government bestow the Bharat Ratna on India's Captain Cool. The country's highest civilian honour has so far been bestowed on only one cricketer -- Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Sharma, who says he played cricket during his school and college days, tell Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar why he feels Dhoni deserves the Bharat Ratna.
Why do you think Dhoni should be awarded the Bharat Ratna?
The answer is in the name itself. He is a Bharat Ratna, he is a gem of India. He is unique. He has made India world Champions in all three formats of cricket. The youth of the country follow him, he is an example for all of them.
He already has the Padma Bhushan. He is in the Territorial Army.
Normally people get the Bharat Ratna much later in life, but I feel this is the right time to give it to him.
There are so many other cricketers who have done so much for the country. Don't they also deserve the award?
Nobody has Dhoni's record of championship in three formats. Every cricketer, every Indian, will agree to that.
There are athletes and sportsmen who have won many laurels for India, but they settle for the Khel Ratna. What if they also start asking for the Bharat Ratna?
Anyone who excels in sports like Dhoni should be given the Bharat Ratna. At the moment, I cannot see anyone like that. It will be an inspiration to them too.
They should get it if they deserve it.
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in which doctors and nurses are the nation's real heroes, how come you are not asking for awards for them too?
They are serving the people. They should be given awards too. They are getting awards and respect.
Those who do the most should be given the Padma Shri.
You are a Congress legislator, do you really expect the Bharatiya Janata Party government to heed your demand?
I have made the demand as a people's representative. The President of India should decide on it.
Is there anything else you think the government should do for Dhoni?
Apart from the Bharat Ratna, they should arrange a special farewell march for Dhoni.
Dhoni is an inspiration for the youth from small towns of India, do you think the Bharat Ratna will boost his inspiration factor?
He is already an inspiration. This award will increase the inspiration factor multiple times.
Have you ever met Dhoni? Do you know him personally?
I have never met him.
What have you done to make cricket popular in your constituency or state?
There are stadiums here, I have arranged tournaments. I have done work for stadiums.
I am making an effort to build a stadium to host one-day cricket matches in Bhopal. It is in the process.
Are you happy with the current Indian cricket team?
I am happy with the current Indian team led by Virat Kohli.
Are you a cricket fan?
I am a cricket fan and a player. I also used to play cricket in my school and college.
As you know, the former India captain, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, is from Bhopal.
Who is your all-time favourite cricketer?
Which is your favourite Dhoni innings?
My favorite Dhoni innings is the one he played in the finals of the one-day World Cup in 2011.
The one he finished with a 6 to win the Cup for India.