Photo: When Dhyan Chand tried his hand at cricket

Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand was a part of three Olympics-winning sides, in 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles), and 1936 (Berlin).August 29, is the birth anniversary of Dhyan Chand, the greatest hockey player the world has seen and perhaps the greatest sportsperson in the history of India. India celebrate Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary as National Sports Day. Dhyan Chand was a part of three Olympics-winning sides, in 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles), and 1936 (Berlin). These were India’s first three gold medals at The Olympics. Dhyan Chand also led India in the Berlin Olympics. Across these three tournaments India played 12 matches. They won every single one of them, scoring 102 goals in all. Dhyan Chand alone scored 40 of these goals. ALSO READ: Don Bradman meets Dhyan Chand

But that is not all. Dhyan Chand was the first Indian sportsperson to capture the imagination of the world. His dribbling skills were so immaculate that they once stopped play at Tokyo to check whether he had applied glue on his stick. They did the same in Netherlands, this time to check for a magnet or something similar. On one occasion, when he went goalless, he complained that the goal dimensions were less than what they ought to be — and he turned out to be correct. And his statue at Vienna has four arms and four sticks as homage of his incredible skills.

When Don Bradman, no less, met him for the only time, he complimented Dhyan Chand with the iconic words “you score goals like runs in cricket.” India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a request as well: “Dada Dhyan Chand, you have so many medals, please give me one, so that I can also put it and look like a player.”Dhyan Chand’s name at birth was Dhyan Singh. After joining the Army at 16, Dhyan Singh could practice hockey only in moonlight, which led to the word ‘Chand’ (moon) being added to his name. His brother Roop Singh also played alongside him at Los Angeles and Berlin. Roop Singh’s 10 goals (when India thrashed USA 24-1 at Los Angeles) remains a world record for a single match. Dhyan Chand himself scored 8 goals in the match.

According to rumours, after watching Dhyan Chand’s superlative performance at Berlin in 1936, Adolf Hitler offered him a post in the German Army (along with German citizenship), which Dhyan Chand turned down. However, there is no documented proof of the incident. He eventually retired from the Indian Army as Major.

Dhyan Chand was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1956. A commemorative stamp was issued in 1980 to honour him. The lifetime achievement award for any Indian sportsperson has been named after him. The National Stadium in New Delhi and the Indian Gymkhana Club in London have been named after him. There is also a 30-feet statue of him at Jhansi, and another life-sized statue of him in New Delhi.

Unfortunately, despite his immense contributions to Indian sport, Dhyan Chand was not awarded the Bharat Ratna. He was cruelly overlooked when Sachin Tendulkar became the first Indian sportsperson to be considered for the award in 2014.

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