Dhyan Chand's Towering Legacy To Sports In India

Article by K. Arumugam in India Today's special issue on 60 Greatest Indians
Photograph of Dhyan Chand courtesy The Hockey Museum

ndia's glorious hockey journey - a medal in every 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 the Gallipoli tragedy during the First World War.

Their friendly gesture resulted in an Indian Army hockey team's tour of New Zealand in 1926 - also a maiden foreign visit by any Indian hockey team. Even as the hosts were amazed at the classic hockey being showcased in front of their eyes, the visitors 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 only because he scored the most goals, but for the grace and ease with which he could do them. Each goal that he scored was a hockey lesson in itself.

At the next three Olympics from 1928 to 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. Defending Olympic hockey 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 colonized country could keep out an empire as mighty as the British Empire from a particular sport for three Olympics.

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

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

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

This was because only hi-profile players were made the team captains. Jaipal Singh, the 1928 Olympic captain was not even residing in India, but was a student at the Oxford University when he got this honour. His successor for the 1932 Olympics, Lal Shah Bokhari, would hardly match the calibre of players in the team. 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 in his third 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. After the 'World's Biggest Divorce', as Partition was quoted in "Freedom at Midnight", when even furniture in government offices was counted and allocated between the two countries, 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 hockey team of 18 was a diverse group, with 14 of the players comprising eight Anglo Indians, four Muslims, and two Hindus who hailed from the Pakistan region. Free India won that war on claiming those 3 pre-Independent Olympic medals, 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 I 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 Scot Who Became The First President Of The Indian Hockey Federation

23rd Sikh Pioneers Hockey Team, 1904. Bruce Turnbull is seated third from left
Article by Diljit Singh Bahra of Sikhs In Hockey, courtesy Stick2Hockey.com

he formation of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) took place 95 years ago in 1925, and was a turning point in the history of Indian Olympic Movement. Hockey historian Dil Bahra of London provides well researched insights on Col. Bruce Turnbull, the first President of the newly formed IHF.

Bruce Turnbull was born in Khadki (known in those days as Kirkee) near Pune (formerly Poona), India on November 4, 1880. His father, Peter Stephenson Turnbull, was Surgeon Major General of the Indian Medical Service in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in 1893.

He was educated at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh from 1891 to 1896. He enlisted at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he learned to play hockey which was a very popular sport there. He was gazetted as an Under Officer into the Indian army as a 19-year-old on July 28, 1900. As a British officer in the Indian Army, he passed Urdu and Punjabi language examinations.

Turnbull played hockey for his regimental team, the 23rd Sikh Pioneers, and was one of three British officers who were in team that won the Punjab Native Army tournament in late 1904.

He was part of the 23rd Sikh Pioneers contingent at the Delhi Durbar in December 1911, and was awarded the Delhi Durbar Medal.

He was on leave in the UK at the outbreak of the Great War (World War I) in August 1914. He volunteered his services to the Army. He went on to serve with the 15th and 47th Sikhs in France and Belgium.

He was wounded in France in 1914 when he sustained a gunshot wound to his left jaw which required him to be transferred to a military hospital in the UK. He was with the 47th Sikhs during the second battle of Ypres in France in 1915, where he was badly wounded in the attacks of the Ferozepore and Jullundur Brigades. Turnbull was admitted to a military hospital in the UK for a second time in a short spell.

Having recovered from his wounds at Ypres, he was appointed Brigade Major of the 202 Infantry Brigade, a training unit based in Kent.

He was appointed as Inspector of Physical Training at the Military Training Directorate, Army Headquarters, India in 1922. With this post, Turnbull also became the Honorary Secretary of Army Sports Control Boards, India. In June 1923, he was promoted to Colonel. Turnbull was elected as the first President of the IHF on 7th November, 1925.

Turnbull retired from the Indian Army in June 1926. Returning home to Scotland after his retirement, he took up a position with the Edinburgh Education Authority in 1928.

He was the business manager of the Indian team which won the gold medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Turnbull officiated at the Games and umpired the bronze medal match between Germany and Belgium.

Turnbull was appointed to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Council in May 1928, and served on the Committee until 1932.

He was elected President of the Scottish Hockey Association from 1935-37. Turnbull umpired regularly in Scotland, and at the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games he was appointed as a member of the Jury of Appeal and an umpire at the matches. In 1935 he published the booklet "Hockey Hints".

He remained committed to hockey throughout his life. In 1950 he presented hockey trophies to the winning Edinburgh University team, and in 1951, he was the Honorary President at the Scottish Hockey's silver jubilee celebrations.

Bruce Turnbull died peacefully at home on 21st January, 1952, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Indian Men's Hockey's Domination In The Olympic Games

Balbir Singh Sr. in the 1948 London Olympics hockey competition. Statistics courtesy Scroll.in

ndian men's hockey's towering record in Olympic hockey can be seen in the stastics below. This extent of world domination is partly the reason hockey is considered India's national game.

1. Most Medals in Olympic Hockey

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 India 8 1 2 11
2 Pakistan 3 3 2 8
3 Great Britain 3 2 4 9

2. Most Wins in Olympic Hockey

Rank Country Wins
1 India 76
2 Netherlands 73
3 Pakistan 70

3. Most Goals in Olympic Hockey

Rank Country Goals
1 India 433
2 Netherlands 306
3 Australia 302

4. Most Consecutive Medals in Olympic Hockey

Rank Country Consecutive Medals Medals Years
1 India 10 7G, 1S, 2B 1928 - 1972
2 Pakistan 6 2G, 3S, 1B 1956 - 1976
3 Australia 6 1G, 1S, 4B 1992 - 2012

5. Most Consecutive Gold Medals in Olympic Hockey

Rank Country Consecutive Golds Goals
1 India 6 1928 - 1956
2 Netherlands 2 1996, 2000
3 Germany 2 2008, 2012

6. Other Records in Olympic Hockey

Rank Record Number Description
1 Most Appearances in Olympic Men's Hockey 20 1928 - 2004, 2012 - 2016
2 Most Goals Scored in a Single Olympics 43 1980 Moscow Olympics
3 Least Goals Conceded in a Single Olympics 0 1928 Amsterdam, 1956 Melbourne
4 Biggest Winning Margin in an Olympic Game IND 24 - USA 1 1932 Los Angeles Olympics
5 Biggest Winning Margin in an Olympic Final IND 8 - GER 1 1936 Berlin Olympics Final
6 Most Goals Scored in an Olympic Final 5 (Balbir Singh Sr.) 1952 Helsinki Olympics Final

The last of India's hockey medals was won on July 29, 1980 at Moscow. India's grip on the sport slipped so much in recent years that the Indian men's hockey team failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and finished last in the Olympics in the 2012 London Olympics.

Based on its no. 4 world ranking, and relatively good performances in the recent (pre-Covid) months, the Indian hockey team will be looking to Tokyo to get back on the Olympic hockey podium. It has been a long wait of 40 years and counting for the nostalgic Indian hockey fans.

Time Running Out For Hockey India's Narinder Batra and Elena Norman

Article courtesy First Post, Photograph credit FIH

ormer Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, has petitioned Delhi High Court to quash articles in Hockey India's (HI) Memorandum of Association (MOA) under which the posts of 'life member', 'life president' and 'CEO', all with unlimited tenure and full voting rights, have been created.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan, appearing for the petitioner, said these posts are in violation of the National Sports Code of 2011, which specifies the rules, circulars and guidelines for the functioning of the national sports federations (NSFs).

The petition, filed through advocate Vanshdeep Dalmia, has sought quashing of the appointments of 'life member' Narinder Dhruv Batra and 'CEO' Elena Norman. The petition contends that a similar post of 'life member' in the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India has been quashed by the High Court.

1975 World Cup winning team member Aslam Sher Khan also alleged in his plea "various acts of nepotism and favouritism" by Batra and Norman were "causing loss, financial and otherwise to the sport of hockey". The plea has sought directions to Batra and Norman to provide accounts of money and financial benefits received by them from HI from their time of appointment, and to refund the same.

Khan has also sought a direction to the Sports Ministry to cancel HI's affiliation to the Indian Olympic Assocation, terminate the appointments of Batra and Norman, and for fresh elections to be held. Until then, the plea has asked for an administrator or ad-hoc committee of eminent sportspersons be appointed to run the affairs of HI.

The Delhi High Court Thursday has issued notice to the Sports Ministry, HI, 'life member' Narinder Batra and 'CEO' Elena Norman, seeking their stand on the petition by 28th September.

Photograph of the Month

Photograph credit Rani Rampal's Twitter Account

ndian women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal has got the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for 2019. She is only the third hockey player to be so honoured, after Dhanraj Pillai and Sardar Singh.

The 25-year-old had helped the Indian team secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics with the tie-breaking goal in the two-match Olympic qualifier against United States, and also led the side to the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

Besides Rani Rampl, the sport of hockey had the following awardees:

  • Arjuna Puraskar: Akashdeep Singh, Deepika Thakur
  • Dronacharya Puraskar: Jude Felix Sebastian
  • Dronacharya Puraskar (Lifetime Achievement): Romesh Pathania
  • Dhyan Chand Puraskar for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games: Ajit Singh

Rani Rampal, who is currently based out of the SAI Centre in Bengaluru, said upon winning the award, "It is a really proud moment for me and my family as well. I owe this prestigious award to my coaches, teammates, friends and family for their constant support since the very beginning. This award will serve as a great motivation for me and players like me to keep striving for bigger feats and make the country proud."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards will be held virtually for the first time on August 29, National Sports Day, instead of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Money Matters

Article and Photograph of the Naval Tata Hockey Academy courtesy Sportstar

fter starting with a girls program of 30 trainee cadets capacity, the Naval Tata Hockey Academy Odisha (NTHAO), is all set to induct 30 boys in the coming months.

Odisha Sports Minister Tusharkanti Behera said, "The boys program will have 30 resident cadets from u-17 level. We will source players from our 10 Grassroots Centres that are operational in Sundargarh and Sambalpur districts, and our 3 Regional Development Centres that are in Bhubanesvar, Panposh and Sundergarh."

The minister added, "The newly launched initiative of the Department of Sports and Youth Services, Govt. of Odisha, to set up a number of synthetic turfs in identified locations of Sundergarh will keep Odisha ahead of its hockey journey. These are very productive times for hockey in the state, and for the youth of the state."

Odisha has a history of producing Olympians, including legendary defender Dilip Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas, to name a few.

NTHO project director Rajiv Seth said, "A professional High Performance Centre like NTHAO will provide advanced level training to the cadets under a resident program. Scouting programs and various trials were carried out in Rourkela, Assam, North-East, Kodagu and other hockey hubs to identify cadets for training. We plan to have a 60%-40% ratio of local Odisha talent to pan-India talent in the academy."

Seth signed off, "We have installed an enormouse number of facilities across multiple sports here in the Kalinga Stadium in a short span of time. Bhubanesvar has truly become a sporting capital of the nation."

Media Matters

Photograph credit Hockey Museum

webinar titled 'Hockey Through the Ages' was organised by The Hockey Museum on 30th July, in partnership with the FIH World Hockey membership scheme.

Fans from all five continents were present for the 90-minute webinar, which saw Mike Smith, the museum's curator and Founding Trustee, in conversation with Simon Mason, the FIH broadcast commentator who played in goal for Great Britain at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

The above is an artefact from the museum's extensive collection of rare hockey photographs. The Hockey Museum is based in Woking, a town in Surrey, England.

Fun With Numbers

Statistics by B. G. Joshi

he September 2020 edition of Fun with Numbers is on Indian internationals who achieved the double distinction of 100+ matches and 100+ goals. One gets just a handful of goal scoring chances in international matches, and only a percentage of which get converted to goals. To score a century of goals is a matter of distinction.

In the era of the great Dhyan Chand (1926-1947) and Balbir Singh Sr. (1947-1958), national teams used to compete in the Olympics only (Asian Games hockey just started in 1958). When Indian teams toured abroad in those times, they used to play a mix of international matches and games against local clubs. Therefore, Dada Dhyan Chand's Balbir Singh Sr.'s goal-scoring feats do not feature in the records, despite their phenomenal strike rate (570 goals in 185 matches for Dhyan Chand, and 246 goals in 61 matches for Balbir Singh Sr.).

Men's Hockey

  • In men's hockey, Pakistani centre-forward Abdul Rashid Jr. (1966-1976) was the first to score 100 international goals
  • The world record for goals scored in men's hockey is held by Pakistan's penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas, with 346 goals
  • The world record for maximum internationals played in men's hockey is held by Dutch striker Teun de Nooijer, with 453 caps
  • 4 Indian players have achieved the double of 100+ matches and 100+ goals in men's hockey - Sandeep Singh, V. R. Raghunath, Rupinderpal Singh and Dhanraj Pillai
Player Date of Birth Career Duration Caps Goals
Sandeep Singh Feb 27,1986 2004-2013 182 138
V. R. Raghunath Nov 1,1988 2006-2015 228 132
Rupinderpal Singh Nov 11,1990 2010-active 215 125
Dhanraj Pillai Jul 16,1968 1989-2004 339 121

Women's Hockey

  • In women's hockey, Dutch centre-forward Fieke Boekhorst (1976-1988)) was the first to score 100 international goals
  • The world record for goals scored in women's hockey is held by South Africa's Pietie Coetzee, with 282 goals
  • The world record for maximum internationals played in women's hockey is held by German striker Natascha Keller, with 425 caps
  • Only 1 Indian player has achieved the double of 100+ matches and 100+ goals in women's hockey - present Indian captain Rani Rampal
Player Date of Birth Career Duration Caps Goals
Rani Rampal Dec 4,1994 2009-active 241 128