Dhyan Chand — a sportsperson beyond compare

Dhyan Chand. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

Sport without heroes is like a religion sans God. Call them stalwarts or icons they elevate it to a different trajectory of aesthetics and craft.

Sport will not be the same had it not been embellished by the Don in cricket, Pele in soccer, Muhammad Ali in boxing or Ayrton Senna in Formula One racing. Hockey maestro Dhyan Chand belongs to this league.

No commentator succeeded in encasing Dhyan’s charisma in a texture of words. He symbolised the country’s aspirations in the pre-independent era and gave it an image and identity.

Three successive Olympic gold medals, the third as captain in Berlin 1936, make him a custodian of our sporting ethos. He blended style and skill with aura of sportsmanship.

It is confirmed that Dhyan’s name has been recommended for Bharat Ratna award by the Home Ministry.

“I always felt that a man essentially is a man, and it is unbecoming of him to show off and make others feel that there was snobbery in him,” he said in his autobiography, “Goal” published by Sport & Pastime.

Saga of achievement

His life and times are an engaging saga of achievement. He was unique, endowed with qualities beyond human comprehension. The imprint of his classicism is eternal.

Dhyan’s career projects the rise of a soldier born on August 29, 1905, at Allahabad to be the monarch of hockey. He joined the Army at the age of 16.

Life in the First Brahmin Regiment in 1922 was uneventful for him until the coach, Bale Tiwari, spotted the spark. From then on, his genius flowered to produce an incandescent chapter in our sports history.

Dhyan’s first overseas tour was with the Indian Army team to New Zealand in 1926. The sequence of victories (18 out of the 21) exemplified his efficiency. At 23, he became an Olympian in 1928.

“The day of our dreams dawned... We were determined to show the world that in this game we are supreme,” he wrote in his autobiography.

India scored 29 goals without a reply in five matches prompting many wonder whether Dhyan was a magician!

Dhyan marched ahead mesmerising rivals with marvellous stick-work. The third gold medal in 1936 at Berlin, after beating the home team with an 8-1 score was the pinnacle.

He was the top-scorer with 13. Interestingly, this victory happened on August 15. It took 11 more years for us to understand the significance of that date.

Why was Dhyan different from the rest? He was destined for immortality. Many of his contemporaries, or those who saw the best of him, confirm that his stick handling was something in the realm of fantasy.

When the WW II spread sport suffered. Like several stalwarts, that included Don Bradman and Len Hutton, Dhyan too had to cool off from the field. Else, he could have added two more gold medals.

Unobtrusively, Dhyan entered the twilight notwithstanding the compulsions of facing the rigours of the war. He was posted at Ferozepur at the time of partition.

He returned to Jhansi after losing a substantial part of his savings amounting to Rs.15,000 in Pakistan.

East Africa in 1947 was Dhyan’s last outing. He had a stint as chief coach at the NIS in Patiala.

There was a time when it appeared the nation had forgotten him when he lay uncared for in a Delhi hospital till the media highlighted the plight of a Padma Bhushan (1956) awardee for whom, a statue exists in Vienna, a metro station in London before the 2012 Olympics!

Life ebbed out of him on December 3, 1979.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 11:21:39 AM |

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