LIFE OF DHYAN CHAND
If Hockey was as popular as Cricket, Bradman would have been known as the Dhyan Chand of Cricket. Here is a look at the life of hockey magician Major Dhyan Chand.
Author – Vaibhav Biradar
(Reading time ~ 4 mins)
Dhyan Chand is widely considered to be the greatest hockey player of all time. His goal scoring ability was phenomenal and his dribbling often made opposition defenders look like sitting ducks. Chand played an important role in India winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936. His birthday, 29th August, is celebrated as the National Sports Day in India and the President of India gives away awards such as Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna and Dronacharya awards on this day. Let us look at some short stories and interesting facts from the life of the hockey wizard – Major Dhyan Chand.
The hockey legend Dhyan Chand was born on 29th of August 1905 in Allahabad. A Young Dhyan had no serious interest in sports, though he loved wrestling. Apart from an occasional game with his friends in Jhansi, Dhyan Chand did not play any hockey worth mentioning before he joined the army. Chand joined the Indian Army at the age of 16, in 1922. It was at the army that his dribbling skills were noticed by Subedar-Major Bale Tiwari. He became his mentor and helped Dhyan Chand improve his game. Between 1922 and 1926, he played the army hockey tournaments and the regimental games. Eventually, Dhyan Chand was selected for the Indian Army team tour of New Zealand.
At the Berlin Olympics in 1936, Dhyan Chand couldn’t play in the finals due to an injury. At half time, when India led by only 1-0 Dhyan Chand removed his shoes and entered the field bare foot. He took India to a stunning victory scoring 6 more goals. Adolf Hitler couldn’t bear the humiliation and left before the game ended. According to rumors, he later offered to elevate ‘Lance Naik’ Dhyan to the rank of a Colonel if he migrated to Germany, which Dhyan Chand refused.
After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand’s magical skills drew crowds to the hockey field. A German newspaper carried a headline: ‘The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.’ The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: ‘Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action’. After every match India played, hundreds of spectators would come down to the player’s enclosure and touch Dhyan Chand’s hockey stick to see what trick it was that kept the ball from leaving his stick as he dribbled his way all over the field. One journalist reported: ‘It looks like he has some invisible magnet stuck to his hockey stick so that the ball does not leave it at all.’ It doesn’t end here. Hockey authorities in the Netherlands once broke his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside!
Once during the game, Major Dhyan Chand was not able to strike ball into the goal post of the opposition’s team. After several misses he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post. To everybody’s amazement, he was right; the goal post was found to be in contravention of the official minimum width prescribed under international rules. During the finals of the Punjab Indian Infantry tournament in Jhelum, the UP team was leading by three goals to one. Only 4 minutes to go. Dhyan Chand responded with three goals in four minutes to lead his team to victory. He seemed to be able to pass opponent after opponent at will.
On that 1947 tour, he put through a wondrous ball to KD Singh Babu, then turned his back and walked away. When Babu later asked the reason for this odd behavior, he was told, “If you could not get a goal from that you did not deserve to be on my team.” Keshav Dutt, Olympic gold Medalist, said “His real talent lay above his shoulders. His was easily the hockey brain of the century. He could see a field the way a chess player sees the board. He knew where his teammates were, and more importantly where his opponents were – without looking. It was almost psychic. He treated everybody as pieces on a board meant for his use. He’d know from his own movement how the defense was forming, and where the gaps were. In other words, he was the only one imponderable while everybody else (opposition included) fell in predictable patterns around him.” The thing with Major Dhyan Chand was, when everybody else thought he was going to shoot, he passed, to induce surprise. And when he passed to you, you’d rather not miss.
Dhyan Chand owned a licensed army gun which he would use for hunting, which was legal in those days. He also loved to fish. Cooking was his other favorite hobby. He enjoyed making mutton, fish dishes, halwa dripping with ghee. His indoor pastime was billiards. After retirement in Jhansi, he used to play billiards till late in the night. Dhyan Chand also played cricket well, and was good at batting due to his strong wrists. He used to play carrom and loved photography. He admitted that he was not a good at socializing. While at home or during play, he kept to himself. He thought that it would be better if he kept quiet and just did his duty or job.
In 1956, at the age of 51, he retired from the army with the rank of Major. After he retired he coached for a while and eventually settled in Jhansi. The last days of Dhyan Chand were not very happy as he was short of money and was badly ignored by the nation. Once he went to a tournament in Ahmedabad and they turned him away not knowing who he was. He developed liver cancer, and was sent to a general ward at the AIIMS, New Delhi. He died on the 3rd of December 1979 penniless and uncared for in a hospital, receiving a meagre pension. His birthday is celebrated every year as National Sports Day. The Indian Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his memory, and the Dhyan Chand National Stadium at New Delhi has been named after him.
Here are some other interesting facts about Major Dhyan Chands Life
Image Credits: Metrolive, wikipedia , Khabar ibnlive, stylewack, youtube, post card