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DHYAN CHAND: Sorcerer's Score (8/29/2009)
--K. Arumugam
DHYAN CHAND: Sorcerer's Score

undefined India’s glorious hockey journey – a medal in Olympics from 1928 to 1980 except once in 1976, including eight gold – would not have started but for a friendship between two British Colonels who were part of Gallipoli tragedy during the First World War.

Their friendly gesture in 1926, an Indian Army hockey team’s first tour of New Zealand – also a maiden foreign visit by any Indian hockey team, dug a bonanza. Even as the hosts were amazed at the classic hockey being showcased in front of their eyes, the visitors also realised that they were indeed a world apart.

One man who mesmerised the Kiwis and whose extraordinary skills spontaneously led the Indians think of taking part in the Olympics, was Dhyan Chand. In that epoch making motley group of sixteen stick artists, the 18-year old ‘Other Rank’ soldier from the Brahmin Regiment stood out. Not because he scored most goals, but for the grace and ease with which he could do them. Each of the goal he scored was hockey lesson in itself.

At the next three Olympics between 1928 and 1936, in which India strode like a colossus, Dhyan Chand lived up to his reputation, and faith reposed by the Indian Hockey Federation – it never called him for selection trials. The defending champion England, after entering the 1928 Olympics, made a hasty retreat after seeing the likes of Dhyan Chand at Folkstone Festival Hockey en route Amsterdam.

It was a rare historical occurrence when a colonial country could keep out as mighty as the British Empire from a particular sport for three Olympics. It is ironical that thte same British, 80 years later, would defeat India in the Chile qualifier and thus ensure their tormenter’s first exit from Olympic hockey in 80 years.

Jesse Owen’s exploits at the at the 1936 Berlin Olympics came for cornucopia of accolades, filling every Olympic historian’s work, as their feats were construed challenging, a worthy a rebuff to the emerging Nazi tendencies.

undefined What about Dhyan Chand? The ‘Non Aryan’ not only had scored 20 goals in the previous two Olympics, but a mind boggling number at Berlin too, including three in the finals (Olympic records credit him with six out of eight goals that India scored in the final, but in his autobiography ‘Goal’ he claims for only three -- and this honesty is greatness of this humble genius) against Germany, pricking their ego in a big way.

The global impact of Dhyan Chand needs a thorough multi-dimensional research.

Equally interesting is how this ordinary Indian, who ‘could just read and write’ -- this is how he describes himself in ‘Goal’ – wrote the destiny of global hockey, while also breaking the mental block of those who managed the sports in his era.

Only hi-profile players were made the team leaders. Jaipal Singh, the 1928 Olympic captain was not even in India, but was a student at the Oxford University when he got this honour. His successor for the 1932 event, Lal Shah Bokhari, would hardly match the calibre of players in the team which includes brothers Roop Singh and Dhyan Chand and a half dozen others in their second Olympics. But the greenhorn who would later become Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Ceylon, got the nod. Neither did Jaipal nor Bokhari played their second Olympics is the case in point. Therefore, when he was made the captain for the Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand considered it a greater moment in his life than when he was selected for the first Olympics.

Dhyan Chand’s legacy is not just confined to pre-Independent era. It continued. After the ‘World’s Biggest Divorce’, to quote from ‘Freedom at Midnight’, when even furniture in government offices was counted and allocated between the divorcees during the Partition, strong claims were made to declare India’s three Olympic Golds neutral, like British India or Undivided India. They had a strong case. The 1936 Berlin Olympic Indian team of 18, for instance, had eight Anglo Indians, four Muslims and two Hindus from the Pakistan region. Free India won that psychological war as all of those 14 souls dwarfed against the towering dinosaur, Dhyan Chand.

And this man, oblivious of his significance, claims in ‘Goal’: I realise that am not a very important man, good enough to write an autobiography’.

Will such a soul ever cease to radiate or fail to illuminate the Indian nationhood?

The author is an expert on Indian hockey and editor of

Note: This article of me was published in India Today Special Issue ' 60 Greatest Indians' last year

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About Dhyan Chand
by Kamlesh Jain on 8/29/2009 9:47:36 PM
gr8 player, but hockey not doing well now. No use if we can't win matches. history is for history book, only present counts.