PV SindhuImage: Aditi Tailang
Virat Kohli topping the 2019 Forbes India Celebrity 100 List is an indication of the popularity of cricket in India. However, other sportspersons too are earning accolades and reaping the benefits of fame. Seven non-cricketers have made it to the list this year.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia debuts at No 94 with earnings of ₹
2.4 crore. Currently, World No 2 in the 65 kg freestyle category, Punia—who won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in December—is prepping for the 2020 Olympics. Footballer Sunil Chhetri returns at No 85, with earnings of ₹
6.1 crore. He had debuted on the list in 2017, ranked 100 with earnings of ₹
2.3 crore. Olympic medallist Mary Kom also makes a comeback. The boxer is ranked 87 with earnings of ₹
3.9 crore, a 36.8 percent jump from the 2016 figure of ₹
Mary KomImage: Amit Verma
“I think there has been a definite shift in the visibility and viability of Indian athletes outside of cricket. You can’t compare it in terms of numbers and earnings, but they have managed to make their own space,” says Sharda Ugra, senior editor at ESPN India and ESPNCricinfo.
However, it was a tough year for badminton players. PV Sindhu’s earnings dropped from ₹
36.5 crore in 2018 to ₹
21.05 crore, resulting in her ranking slipping from 20 to 63. But she remains the highest paid non-cricket sportsperson on the list. Saina Nehwal’s earnings also took a serious hit: From ₹
16.54 crore in 2018 to ₹
3 crore this year. Srikanth Kidambi who was on the list since 2017 has dropped off this year.
Sunil ChhetriImage: Nishant Ratnakar
Golfer Anirban Lahiri and tennis player Rohan Bopanna’s earnings also saw a significant drop. Lahiri’s fell from ₹
11.99 crore (2018) to ₹
5.3 crore (2019) while Bopanna’s is ₹
1.87 crore (2019) from ₹
3.27 crore (2018). Boxer Vijender Singh and golfer Shubhankar Sharma, who were on the 2018 list at ranks 96 and 98 respectively, don’t find a place this year.
“There is a big gap that exists in Indian sports apart from cricket, which needs to be addressed with better governance and accountability,” says Ugra.
CLICK HERE to view the 2019 Forbes India Celebrity 100 list
(This story appears in the 03 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)