Special Correspondent

Four players honoured posthumouslyUdham and Harbinder Singh follow Balbir Singh (Sr.)TV documentaries on top five Four players honoured posthumouslyUdham and Harbinder Singh follow Balbir Singh (Sr.)TV documentaries on top five

NEW DELHI: Balbir Singh (Sr.) maintains that he is better known overseas than in India. The 81-year-old, member of the gold winning Olympic hockey teams in 1948, 1952 and 1956 and regarded as one among the greatest centre-forwards of all times, on Wednesday added one more glorious reason to get his due.

The soft-spoken octogenarian was adjudged the `best Sikh hockey player', ahead of the likes of the late Udham Singh and Harbinder Singh by an elite 10-member jury. He topped the list of 10 players selected from a pool of 30.

Balbir Singh received the award from the former member of the International Olympic Committee and former president of the Indian Hockey Federation, Ashwini Kumar.

Speaking on the occasion, in the presence of several hockey stalwarts, Balbir Singh thanked the jury for the honour but was quick to admit that initially he was not very comfortable with the concept of having a list of 10 Sikh players.

"I am a secular and a Nationalist to the core. So I was not convinced about the idea of having a list of players on the basis of religion. But slowly I realised that it would do good to the image of Indian hockey and I agreed.

Dhyan Chand was the best

"For me, Dhyan Chand was the greatest. There was never another player quite like him. He was my role model," he said and went on to acknowledge the roles Mr. Ashwini Kumar and all the coaches who helped him in honing his skills.

In his speech, Mr. Ashwini Kumar revealed that when he first saw Balbir Singh he was playing as a defender. "I prompted him to play as a forward and he was brilliant." He went on to recall some of his goals and hailed him as the best that he had seen.

Four honoured posthumously

Since four of the players were honoured posthumously, Mrs Chanchal Randhawa received it on behalf of her husband Surjit Singh. Lt. Col. G.S. Gill accepted the honour for his father late Dharam Singh (Sr.) while Col. Balbir Singh's sister Mandish Kaur came forward to receive the honour bestowed on late Udham Singh. The mementoes for Balbir Singh (Railways) and late Prithipal Singh were to be handed over to their families.

The idea of honouring `Sardars of Indian hockey' was conceptualised by Sundeep Misra of indianhockey.com. He said a 30-minute documentary on each of the first five players would be made and shown on television in India, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. He added that his next venture would be to honour the 10 best Indian hockey players of all time.

The Top 10: Balbir Singh (Sr.): Centre forward; member of the gold-winning Olympic team in 1948, 1952 and 1956. (Late) Udham Singh: Forward; winner of three Olympic gold and a bronze. Harbinder Singh: Centre forward; winner of Olympic Gold in 1964 and bronze medals in 1968 and 1972. (Late) Prithipal Singh: Full-back; winner of gold, silver and bronze in Olympic Games. Ajit Pal Singh: Centre-half; captain of the World Cup winning team in 1975; Olympic bronze in 1968 and 1972. (Late) Dharam Singh (Sr.): Full-back; member of the Olympic gold-winning team in 1952 and coach of the 1964 Olympic team.

Balbir Singh (Railways): Winger; winner of the Olympic bronze in 1968 and Asian Games gold in 1966. (Late) Surjit Singh: Full-back; member of the 1975 World Cup winning team. Pargat Singh: Full-back; winner of Asian Games silver in 1990 and bronze in 1986; member of Olympic squads in 1988, 1992 and 1996.Balbir Singh (Services): Half-back; winner of Olympic bronze in 1968 and Asian Games gold in 1966.

Members of the Jury: Messrs J. S. Verma (former Chief Justice), Leslie Claudius (winner of three Olympic golds and a silver), R.S. Bhola (winner of a Olympic gold and a silver), Haripal Kaushik (winner of two Olympic golds and a silver), Inder Mohan Mahajan (former President, Indian Hockey Federation), Jagannadha Rao (former Sports Editor, PTI), S. Thyagarajan (Deputy Sports Editor, The Hindu), Prabhjot Singh (Chief of Bureau, The Tribune) and Dil Bahra (London District Police Chief and UK hockey official).

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