Dhyan Chand: The Forgotten Legend By Kunika Khera from Army Institute of Law
“This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey.”[i]
Every year our country celebrates 29th August as National Sports Day. The day is to commemorate the birthday of an Indian hockey player considered one of the best in the world, who brought many glories and honours to the nation. This man was Dhyan Chand Singh. Unfortunately, today not many seem to be aware about the accomplishments of this legend.
Major Dhyan Chand was born to Sameshwar Dutt Singh, who also played hockey in the British Indian Army, and Sharadha Singh. He had two more brothers. He could attain only six years of schooling due to continuous transfers of his father before finally settling down in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. He was an avid lover of wrestling and wasn’t much inclined towards other sports.
In 1921, at the age of 16, he joined the Army and started playing hockey tournaments soon thereafter. It is here that he attained the name ‘Chand.’ The word means the moon in Hindi. The reason behind this name was his late-night practices. Due to absence of flood-lights at the time, his practice schedule matched the coming out of moon. The name was also given fondly by his coach predicting his future to be as bright and shining as the moon.
His great performances led to his selection in India’s tour in New Zealand. The tour was greatly successful with India winning 18 matches out of 21 with 2 draws. This led to his promotion to the rank of Lance Naik.
1928 Amsterdam Olympics
After years of efforts, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was formed and it was decided to send the best team for 1928 Amsterdam Olympics in which Dhyan Chand secured his place. The Indian team beat the Dutch, German and Belgian teams in the pre-Olympic matches by huge margins. Chand scored three goals in India's debut Olympic match against Austria, winning by 6-0.[ii] They beat Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland on their way to the finals. On 26 May 1938, Indian team managed to beat Netherland by 3-0 and brought home India’s first Olympic medal. Dhyan Chand was the hero who had managed to secure 14 goals in just 5 matches.
1932 Los Angeles Olympics
The Indian team was again formulated for the 1932 Olympics. This time along with Dhyan Chand his brother, Roop Singh was also part of the team. The game started with a match against Japan which India won by 11-1. The team went on to win Gold for the country again. The two brothers were dubbed as ‘hockey twins.’
Captaincy and 1936 Berlin Olympics
In 1934, Dhyan Chand was selected as the captain. Indian team won all the qualifying matches in the 1936 Olympics and faced Germany in the finals. India came out victorious and won by 8-1. The match made Adolf Hitler leave the stadium midway.
Later, when Hitler came to know about Dhyan Chands’ flawless performance, he offered him German citizenship and a rank of Field Marshal to which he responded in Hindi “India is my Country, and I am fine there.”[iii]
Life after Olympics
After Olympics, Dhyan Chand continued playing hockey till end of 1940s. However, he mostly restricted himself to Army tournaments. By now, he was regarded as the best hockey player in the world. He kept playing till the age of 42 years, and retired from the game in 1948. Dhyan Chand met Don Bradman, the Cricket Maestro at Adelaide in 1935. After watching him play, Bradman commented “He scores goals like runs in cricket.”[iv]
In 1956, he retired as a Major from the Army. The same year he was bestowed with Padma Bhushan. He went on to coach after retirement in coaching camps in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
Despite many triumphs he brought to India, the last days of ‘the Wizard’ were quite tragic. He was ignored by the nation and was left to fend for himself. He later died of liver cancer on 3 December, 1979 at the All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi. He was cremated at Jhansi Heroes ground in his hometown.[v] His statue with four hands and four sticks was built in Vienna depicting his master control over the ball.
Dhyan Chand has left behind a great and remarkable legacy for sportsmen all around India. He was the one that made hockey as India’s national sport. Many continue to demand Bharat Ratna to be bestowed on the legendary player.[vi] But rather than rewards, it is important for all of us, young Indians, to keep his memory in our hearts and not forget the nations’ very own ‘Hockey ka jaadugar.’
[i] Mohammad Hussain, Major Dhyan ‘Chand’ Singh, https://www.sportskeeda.com/hockey/major-dhyan-chand-singh-the-story-of-a-legend.
[ii] Dhyan Chand Biography, http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/dhyan-chand-5335.php.
[iii] Supra, Note i.
[iv] Dhyan Chand Profile, http://www.iloveindia.com/sports/hockey/players/dhyan-chand.html.
[v] Niket Bhushan, Last Days of Dhyan Chand, http://www.bharatiyahockey.org/granthalaya/legend/encounters/page11.htm.
[vi] See, Dhanraj Pillay says the hockey legend should be bestowed with Bharat Ratna, FIRST POST, http://www.firstpost.com/sports/dhanraj-pillay-says-hockey-legend-dhyan-chand-should-be-bestowed-with-bharat-ratna-3883023.html.
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