The ‘Wizard’ epitomised the ethos of sport’s best traditions
Few sportsmen of our time and perhaps only a handful in any era enjoy for generations the iconic status of Dhyan Chand.
Eulogised as “a magician” and “a wizard”, the proficiency of this genius enriched the charm of hockey and gave India an international identity.
Born on August 29, 1905, at Allahabad, Dhyan Chand settled in Jhansi. Had he not chosen a career in the Army, he would have been “a flower born to blush unseen”.
Dhyan Chand blossomed into a striker nonpareil during the Army’s tour of New Zealand in 1926. From that time he became the monarch.
His career touched the zenith when India entered the Olympic arena in 1928. The breath-taking displays in Amsterdam evoked spontaneous approbation.
Writers exhausted their vocabulary to capture the sprit and style of the stalwart centre-forward.
He eclipsed everyone when India claimed gold medals at Amsterdam, Los Angeles and in Berlin as the captain.
Interestingly, India, under the British flag, retained gold after an 8-1 win over Germany on August 15, 1936. The players saluted the Congress flag in the dressing room hardly realising what destiny was in store for them. India became independent on August 15, 1947.
Two more gold medals could have come into India’s kitty if World War had not stopped the Games in 1940 and 1944.
Hunger for goals
Statistically, Dhyan Chand had an enviable hunger for goals.
In matches before and after the1932 Los Angeles Games, India had scored 338 goals, and he accounted for 133.
During the tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1935, he smashed 201 in 48 matches. With 39 in 12 matches from the three Olympics (1928-36), he is the highest goal-scorer for India.
The war years robbed Dhyan Chand of setting new benchmarks.
Yet after independence, at the age of 42, he led a team to East Africa in 1947-48 scoring 61 goals in 22 matches.
Honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1956, he had a stint as a coach (1961-69) in NIS Patiala. He died on December 3, 1979.
A simpleton for whom the meaning of ‘ego’ was unknown, Dhyan Chand epitomized the ethos of sport’s best traditions.
“I always felt that a man essentially is a man, and it is unbecoming of him to show off and to make others feel that there was snobbery in him,” he wrote in his autobiography, ‘Goal’.
This mirrors eloquently Dhyan Chand’s personality.