Four luminaries of Indian sport, Zafar Iqbal, Anju Bobby George, Bhaichung Bhutia and Gautam Gambhir along with the Chief Editor of Times Internet and member of the PM's task force on the preparations for the next three Olympics, Rajesh Kalra, recently put their heads together to select India's best sportspersons of 2016 for the Mahindra Scorpio Times of India Sports Awards (TOISA).
Jamie Alter, sports editor for TOI Digital, offers a fly-on-the-wall account of what transpired during the jury meet .
Given the rousing success of the inaugural TOISA in 2015, there was little doubt as to the level of professionalism, integrity and sincerity of the esteemed jury assembled ahead of the 2017 edition. In Zafar Iqbal, quicksilver forward of India's last Olympic gold-winning hockey team and subsequently the captain of the Indian hockey team; Anju Bobby George, India's only athlete to win a medal at the World Track and Field Championships; Bhaichung Bhutia, the country's most-capped player with 104 international appearances; and Gautam Gambhir; India's third most successful Test opener and two-time World Cup winner (ODI and T20I), we had an illustrious and impeccable jury. It is one whose credibility cannot be questioned and whose stature, reputation, honesty and record turned the exercise into the gold standard of judging Indian sport in 2016.
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The awards this year are the same as the previous edition but with a few significant additions: the introduction of four new categories - Paralympians, Coach/Mentor, State of the Year and Team of the Year - which we at TOI felt were hugely significant.
Getting the four aforementioned sportspersons under one roof ultimately did not happen, as at the last minute Anju was unable to fly to New Delhi for the jury meet and so linked up via Skype. It did not prove a hindrance at all, for her thoughts on selection and criteria and, in specific, the role of a sportsperson beyond their immediate discipline were immensely valuable.