Millennium Post

His lasting legacy

Major Dhyan Chand is inarguably the greatest hockey player who ever lived. To put it plane, he’s like hockey’s Don Bradman, someone so far ahead of the rest that comparisons become meaningless. Two days back, the nation celebrated Dhyan Chand 109th birth anniversary, a day also marked as National Sports Day.

Luckily, before the public debate  as to why Chand was denied Bharat Ratna even after decades of pleas dried down, the Union home ministry finally recommended the name of the legendary hockey player for the highest civilian award in the country earlier this month.

Considering the Chand’s overwhelming dominance in world hockey between during 1930s, it’s shocking the legend wasn’t conferred the award posthumously earlier. But considering Chand’s last years, which were much less than comfortable, it’s not surprising the way we as a country always fail to give legends there dues.

Coming back to the encouraging part of the Dhyan Chand saga, on 12 August, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju informed the Lok Sabha the ministry had forwarded Dhyan Chand’s name to the PMO after receiving recommendations from various quarters.

Born in 1905, Dhyan Chand was nick-named the Hockey Wizard for his superb ball control and is considered the greatest field hockey player of all time. He won three Olympic gold medals for India between 1928 and 1936. Dhyan Chand retired from the game in 1948. Eight years later, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. He retired from the Indian Army with the rank of Major. He passed away in New Delhi in 1979 at the age of 79. Here are a few facts and legends about Dhyan Chand which will live forever:

He was born on August 29, 1905 near the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad. His birth name was Dhyan Singh. According to his son, Ashok Kumar, his father’s first coach was so struck by Singh’s burgeoning hockey skills that he proclaimed the young man would one day shine like a chand (moon). The comparison stuck and Dhyan Singh would go down in history as Dhyan Chand.

Dhyan Chand’s father, Sameshwar Dutt Singh, was a solider in the Indian Army it was on joining the army at the age of 16 in 1922 that Chand took up hockey.

Dhyan Chand won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in hockey between 1928 and 1936.
After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand’s magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field. A German newspaper carried a banner headline: ‘The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.’ The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Dhyan Chand in action. Legend has it that Adolf Hitler walked out of the hockey final because Chand was single-handedly destroying Germany. India had trailed 0-1 at half-time but would go on to score eight goals in the second half, six of them by Chand, to rout the hosts. Hitler later offered to make Lance ‘Naik’ Chand a Colonel if he moved to Germany, an offer that was politely turned down.

Dhyan Chand was a prolific scorer of goals. In 1932, India scored 338 goals in 37 matches. Dhyan Chand scored 133 of them. He scored over 1,000 goals in his career.

He had the highest standards on the field. When Dhyan Chand was 42 and semi-retired, he agreed to go on a tour of East Africa with a young Indian team. In one particular game, he played KD Singh Babu through on goal with a typically brilliant pass, but inexplicably turned around and walked away without watching to see if Babu scored or not. When Babu later asked him about it, Chand said: ‘If you could not get a goal from that you did not deserve to be on my team.’

There is a sports club in Vienna which boasts a statue of Chand bearing four arms and four hockey sticks to illustrate just how magical his skills were. The Astro-turf hockey pitch, at the Indian Gymkhana Club in London has been named after the Indian hockey legend. A tube station has been named after him in London, along with 358 other past and present Olympic heroes, in the run-up to the Olympic Games in 2012. The Transport for London brought out a special ‘Olympic Legends Map’, detailing all 361 tube stations. Only six stops have been named after hockey players, with the three Indians, Dhyan Chand, Roop Singh and Leslie Claudius, cornering the majority.

How superior Chand was to his contempories was explained by fellow Olympic gold medallist Keshav Dutt: ‘His real talent lay above his shoulders. His was easily the hockey brain of the century. He could see a field the way a chess player sees the board. He knew where his teammates were, and more importantly where his opponents were, without looking. It was almost psychic.

‘He treated everybody as pieces on a board meant for his use. He’d know from his own movement how the defense was forming, and where the gaps were. In other words, he was the only imponderable, everybody else fell in predictable patterns around him.’

Chand’s retired to Jhansi and coached for a short while but by his own account, his last years were less than comfortable. He was not well off and felt ignored by the country to which he had given so much joy. According to his son Ashok, he was shockingly turned away from a hockey tournament in Ahmedabad because the organisers did not know who he was.

Chand died almost penniless in 3 December, 1979 at AIIMS in New Delhi after developing liver cancer. He was originally placed in the general ward as no one at the hospital knew who he was. According to some, a journalist’s article eventually got him moved to a special room.

Let’s celebrate Dhyan Chand by following him: Sports Minister

New Delhi: Paying tribute to Major Dhyan Chand on his 109th birth anniversary, sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the best way to honour the hockey wizard's memory is to inculcate the qualities he displayed on the field.

‘August 29 marks a significant day in the history of sports in India. The legendary hockey player, Major Dhyan Chand was born on this day, 109 years back. He redefined Indian Sports in Hockey at the global level. To commemorate his invaluable contributions, we celebrate his birthday as National Sports Day every year,’ the Minister said.

‘He is inspiration personified. He became synonymous with hockey. He became the parameter of hockey by which other player's calibre is measured. It is surprising to know that Dhyan Chand, who came to be known as Hockey Magician, started playing hockey only after joining the Army at the age of 16. It was from there that he started playing hockey,’ said the minister.

‘After that, Dhyan Chand rose in the hockey field like a meteor. We should imbibe a lesson from the life history of Major Dhyan Chand. Many of our young players are talented. No doubt, but do they have the determination to succeed the way Major Dhyan Chand did?’ he added.

Sonowal said India is not short on resources anymore and the players need to step up their game. ‘It’s time that we do some kind of heart searching. Mind you, there are tens and thousands of children playing hockey in the country. We have more than 100 synthetic surfaces for field hockey in India,’ he said.

‘Compare this with a small country like Belgium which has only 16 surfaces. The best way to pay tribute to Major Dhyan Chand is to inculcate his qualities of discipline, hard-work and determination in our hockey players and also in other sportspersons. India is on continuous stride to set new heights for its performance in world sports. We just need to keep this momentum by keeping the ideals set by Major Dhyan Chand,’ he added.

Legend immortalised in comic book series

Legendary stories about hockey great Dhyan Chand have also been given graphical touch by Amar Chitra Katha’s ‘Dhyan Chand – The Wizard of Hockey’, a 64-page graphic novel priced at Rs 100. The graphic novel is the first title of ACK in the sports genre and centers around Dhyan Chand’s passion for hockey and the way he lived and breathed the game. A  year’s time has been taken to create this graphical piece, which is scripted by Luis Fernandes.

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