Pallikal has been recommended by Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), the sports arm of the state government.

The 23-year-old is the first Indian to break into the top 10 of world rankings. She was world no. 11 when her application was sent to the sports ministry and is no. 18 as per the latest Women's Squash Association rankings.

Performances of last four years will be taken into consideration before the recipient of the coveted award is picked. The Chennai-born player was honoured with the Arjuna award in 2012 and Padma Shri in 2014.

Pallikal made history at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she and Joshana Chinappa sealed the gold medal match, winning India's first ever squash medal in the Games' history.

Later in the year at Incheon, she bagged a first ever bronze medal for her country in the women's singles competition of the Asian Games.

In 2012, Pallikal helped the Indian women's team to a memorable gold at the Asian Championship in Kuwait.

The others in the race for Khel Ratna are Sardar Singh (hockey), PV Sindhu (badminton), Jeev Milkha Singh (golf), Devendra Jhajariya (Paralympics), Girisha Hosanagara (Paralympics) besides discus throwers Vikas Gowda and Seema Punia.

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