New Delhi [India], July 18 (ANI): Spinner Harbhajan Singh on Saturday backed the decision of Punjab government from withdrawing his name from the Khel Ratna shortlist, saying he is not "eligible" for the award.
The spinner also clarified that an athlete's performance over the past three years is taken into consideration for shortlisting him/her for the accolade.
"Dear friends, I have been flooded with calls as to why the Punjab Govt withdrew my name from Khel Ratna nominations. The truth is I am not eligible for Khel Ratna which primarily considers the international performances in the last three years," Harbhajan tweeted.
"The Punjab Govt is not at fault here as they have rightly withdrawn my name. Would urge my friends in media not to speculate. Thank you and regards," he said in another tweet.
The 40-year-old Harbhajan has not played for India since 2016 and as a result, he cannot be shortlisted for the Khel Ratna award.
"Lot of confusion & speculation regarding my nomination for Khel Ratna so let me clarify. Yes, last year the nomination was sent late but this year I only asked Punjab Govt to withdraw my nomination because I don't fall under the 3-year eligibility criteria. Don't speculate further," Harbhajan concluded.
Earlier in the day, DP Singh Kharbanda (Director, Punjab Sports and Youth Services) announced that Punjab government had withdrawn the name of Harbhajan Singh for Khel Ratan as the cricketer said that he is not eligible for this award.
Harbhajan has played 103 Tests, 236 ODIs and 28 T20Is for India, managing to scalp 711 wickets across all formats.
The spinner has picked up 417 wickets in the longest format of the game, and as a result, he is the third most successful bowler for India in Test cricket.
In 2019, Harbhajan's nomination for the Khel Ratna award was rejected by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and it was said that his documents had reached late.
Harbhajan had then requested Punjab Sports minister to look into the matter and subsequently, a probe was ordered to look into the matter.
The spinner would have been in action for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) if the IPL had commenced from March 29.
However, the tournament has been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic. (ANI)