The Strange Anamoly In Bollywood Sports Biopics


Producer Ronnie Screwvala, Co-Producer Premnath Rajgopalan and Director Abhishek Chaubey announce film on Dhyan Chand

here has been an enduring mystery with regard to Bollywood sports biopics - no producer till now was willing to make a biopic on hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, who represented India 3 times in the Olympics, and won the gold all 3 times. Instead, we have a bevy of planned sports biopics on all other stars in all other games.

For instance, a biopic has been announced on badminton player Saina Nehwal, who represented India 3 times in the Olympics, and won 1 bronze. The film will star Parineeti Chopra and will be directed by Amol Gupte.

Actor Sonu Sood will be producing a movie on badminton player P. V. Sindhu, who is 25 years old and has won an Olympic silver. The is what The Print had to see on this: "Sports biopics are usually written with retrospective wisdom, allowing film-makers to accurately assess a person's overall career impact. A biopic on Sindhu at this stage would be short-sighted, limiting the scope of the story to one moment of victory rather than a lifetime's worth of wins, losses and lessons learnt."

Viacomm 18 Motion Pictures announced a biopic on cricketer Mithali Raj, who represented India 5 times in the World Cup, and finished 2nd twice. The film will star Tapsee Pannu and will be directed by Rahul Dholakia.

A biopic has been announced on air rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra, who represented India in 5 Olympics and won 1 medal, albeit gold. Abhinav's role will be played by Harshavardhan Kapoor, who said in an interview "Abhinav's story is different from that of any other Indian athlete. He has grown up wealthy, his struggles are different." A graduate of Doon School, a Bachelor's in Business Administration from US and having trained in Europe, all on personal funds, Abhinav's struggles are indeed different.

Dhyan Chand had limited formal education - he could barely read and write. He joined the Army as a Sepoy, with the pay of a few rupees a month. He had a lucky escape during World War II when he got posted to Ferozepur, but the rest of his regiment become Prisoners of War of the Japanese. His only achievement is winning 3 golds in 3 Olympics, having an apocryphal meeting with Adolf Hitler, and having the country's National Sports Day observed on his birthday. There were no endorsement deals in the days of Dhyan Chand. However, but he got an endorsement from none other than Don Bradman, who said, "Dhyan Chand scores goals like runs in cricket."

Indeed, who would be interested in such a player's biopic when there are so many options available to Bollywood?

Enter producer Ronnie Screwvala, co-producer Premnath Rajagopalan and director Abhishek Chaubey who have announced a film on Dhyan Chand.

Screwvala, who has previously produced films like Rang De Basanti, Swades and Uri: The Surgical Strike, said "Dhyan Chand is the biggest icon of Indian sports, who unfortunately the youth of today don't know much about. There couldn't have been a greater underdog story than that of Dhyan Chand, and I can't wait to bring this film to the audiences."

Said director Abhishek Chaubey in a statement, "Dhyan Chand is one of the greatest players in the history of our national sport, and it's a matter of pride to direct his biopic. We have a massive amount of research material in hand. Honestly, every achievement of his life deserves a separate story in itself."

The film will be produced by RSVP Films and Blue Monkey Films. Written by Supratik Sen and Chaubey, the casting of the film is currently underway, with a top star expected to come on board to play the titular role of the hockey wizard. Shooting will commence in 2021 and the film is expected to release in 2022.

The Strange Anamoly In Indian Sports Media Coverage


Photograph of Manpreet Singh and Illi Saddique courtesy New Straits Times

his is a story of fawning coverage of one sport and an abject igorance of another sport.

Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh tied the knot with long-time fiancée Illi Najwa Saddique in Jalandhar on 16th December, 2020. The bride is a Malaysian national of Pakistani descent. Manpreet met her while captaining the junior Indian hockey team at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia in 2012. Theirs has been an 8-year-long courtship; he was 20 years when he first met her.

The wedding ceremony and reception were held at Manpreet's hometown in Mithapur village in Jalandhar, Punjab. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Illi had to get special permission from the Malaysian authorities and India's Home Affairs Ministry to fly down for the wedding.

Former India hockey player Pargat Singh, who captained the national side at the Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996) Olympics, also attended to give the newlyweds his blessings.

After the wedding, Illi stated that hockey continue to remain Manpreet's priority, and that she would be honoured to be by his side in Tokyo.

Manpreet, winner of the 2019 FIH Player of the Year award, has been India's skipper since May 2017. However, this life event of the team captain of the national sport was totally ignored by the Indian sports media. How could they, when they were busy fawning over:

  • Actress Athiya Shetty posting a picture of herself with the caption "Flowers make me happy", and cricketer K. L. Rahul posting some flower icons in response
  • Cricketer Rishabh Pant saying to his interior designer lady love, "I just want to make you happy because you are the reason I am so happy"
  • Yuzvendra Chahal getting engaged to Dhanashree Verma and gushing "Everything was just so beautiful"

Perhaps the Indian sports media has some self-reflection to do in 2021. Its New Year's Resolution should be to be fair and balanced in its sports coverage, starting with how it covers our national sport.

Remembering Sports Administrator Extraordinaire - Ashwini Kumar


Article by sports author/commentator Vijayan Bala

ecember 28. 2020 marked the 100th birth anniversary of Ashwini Kumar, the outstanding police officer, renowned sports administrator, author and connoisseur of music.

Ashwini Kumar was born in Jalandhar on 28th December, 1920 to a distinguished doctor of pre-partition Lahore, Dr. Vishwanath. He was the fifth of 9 children (five brothers and four sisters). Kumar got his Master's degree in History from Government College, Lahore, where he was also the Assistant Editor of the College magazine 'Ravi'. In his youth, Ashwini Kumar was a crack boxer, a fine hockey player, a good rower and a national-level athlete.

Kumar's police career began in 1942 when he joined the Imperial Police (IP) at the age of 22. The IP was a precursor to the present day Indian Police Service (IPS). In those days, only one Indian was selected for the IP in a year. All the other officers were British. The IP exam was conducted by the Federal Public Service Commission.

Kumar had a glorious career of 36 years in the Police, rising to the rank of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in Punjab Police, followed by Director General (DG) Seema Suraksha Bal (BSF) from 1974 to 1978. He was awarded the President's Medal for Gallantry twice.

The super cop was involved in the administration of different sports in India - hockey, basketball and athletics. It was his association with hockey and the Olympic movement which brought him international fame.

Kumar had the distinction of witnessing and being part of all Summer Olympics from 1948 London till 2012 London - 17 Olympics in all. Kumar supervised the security of six Olympics, starting from the 1980 Moscow Games.

He served as Secretary General of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for two terms : 1956-60 and 1970-74. He held the post of Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1983-87 (the first from Asia, Africa or Latin America to achieve this distinction). He received the Olympic Order of Merit in 2002 at the IOC's 104th Congress in Mexico City.

In hockey, he became President of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) in 1958 after serving for two years as Vice-President. He remained President of the then IHF till 1973-74 when he resigned. During his tenure as the IHF President, India regained the Olympic hockey gold in 1964 and the Asian Games hockey gold in 1966.

Kumar once said, "I was among the first few people in the country who believed that sportspersons needed financial security. The great Balbir Singh (Sr) was recruited by me into Punjab Police straight from the college. He started as a full back. But seeing his speed, scoring ability and dash, I made him play at the centre-forward position where he made a name for himself. Udham Singh, another great, was the other player of that time to be groomed by me. Ajitpal Singh was yet another fine player. I spotted him at the school level when he was 13 or 14 years old. I then recruited him into the force when he turned 18."

Kumar married Renu, the niece of Guru Dutt Sondhi - the first IOC member from India. They had two daughters - Rohini, nicknamed Hockey (due to Kumar's passion for the sport) and Yamini, fondly referred to as Choti as she is the younger one.

Kumar passed away in New Delhi on 19th October, 2015, a few months before his 95th birthday.

Big Stadium Hockey At The Stoop Wins Sports Innovation Award


Great Britain Hockey media release. Photograph of the Dublin Big Stadium Hockey Project courtesy Polytan

he groundbreaking Big Stadium Hockey project has won in the Sports Innovation category at the 2020 Sports Business Awards. The partnership between England Hockey, FIH, Polytan and others saw the development of new technology that allowed an international-standard playing surface to be temporarily laid at Harlequins Stadium, with Great Britain's men and women taking on their New Zealand counterparts in June 2019.

The matches were a huge success with a packed stadium at The Stoop creating the biggest hockey crowd on these shores since the London 2012 Olympics.

The technology was also used by Hockey Ireland to host their women's Olympic qualifiers in Dublin in November 2019, in front of the largest crowds to watch any women's team sport in Ireland.

The turf used at the Stoop was Polytan's Poligras Tokyo GT, which is the surface for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. This turf is made from 60% renewable raw materials (derived from sugarcane) and requires up to 65% less water. This was a critical consideration in building a temporary installation without irrigation infrastructure.

After the event, the turf was rolled up and re-installed at Great Britain's Bisham Abbey training base as their main pitch while preparing for the Tokyo Games.

Comments from the judges panel said that "The Big Stadium Project was an excellent and sustainable solution to address spectator numbers, with the added flexibility to use different stadia around the world. This reduces the need for much more expensive permanent infrastructure."

Photograph of the Month


Article and Graphic by hockey historian Dil Bahra, courtesy Stick2Hockey.com

he Photograph of the Month for January 2021 is of a full-page newspaper spread from a Dutch newspaper from the 1928 Olympics. It displays the banner headline "British India Olympic Hockey Champions", and features a photograph of Dhyan Chand.

The journal Revue der Sporten wrote about the Indian team during the Games:

"The British Indian team have loosened up here, these people most of whom are of a different race, of different customs, of different notions. They have experienced a friendly welcome here and were given a sincere handshake. They came from England, where they hardly received any attention, where they were treated very coolly, and where the appreciation for their game and gentlemanly conduct was not rewarded with a warm handshake.

Here they found hockey players who received them as friends, here they were regarded as sportsmen. Small wonder, therefore, that they feel at home in our country! Watch them sit around in the Hotel Zomerzorg, which has been almost exclusively reserved for them. They are having a good time in wonderful surroundings, with forests, dunes and the seaside."

De Corinthian, a journal for the sports elite observed the buildup for the final, that was held on 26th May, 1928 at 3:45 pm local time:

"Towards one o'clock, the trams in the direction of the Stadium were crammed. Taxis were nowhere to be had, and the occasional one which became available was stormed immediately. There was only one traffic flow in our great capital, and that went in the direction of the Olympic Stadium in the south of Amsterdam. In Van Tuyllplein, thousands of cars from all parts of the continent were parked. All this for a hockey match: a sport which was virtually unknown to the masses a fortnight ago.

The British-Indian superiority in the Olympic tournament clearly manifested itself in their goal difference: 29 scored and nil conceded, which meant that goalkeeper Richard Allen had kept his goal clean in all five matches. Although the second half was a formality the spectators remained enthusiastic till the end."

Tailpiece: On 23rd May 1928, three days before the hockey final, the FIH formally approved India's membership. India became the first non-European country to become an FIH member. On 26th May, India beat Netherlands 3-0 in the Olympic hockey final. India became the first non-European country to win the Olympic hockey gold.

Money Matters


The Biju Patnaik Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, Photograph credit The New Indian Express

n the run up to the Men's Hockey World Cup 2023, which will be co-hosted by Bhubanesvar and Rourkela in Odisha, the state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced a new stadium in Rourkela, the largest city in the Sundargarh district of Odisha. The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubanesvar had hosted the 2018 edition of the Hockey World Cup

Releasing a video message for the public, the Chief Minister said, "Sundargarh district is our powerhouse of hockey talent. Many great hockey players from the district have represented the country at the international level. The support of people of the district to hockey players is unparalleled. As a tribute to the contribution of Sundargarh to Indian hockey, I would like to announce that we will build a new international level hockey stadium in Rourkela with a seating capacity of 20,000. Spread over 15 acres of land, the stadium will be constructed in the Biju Patnaik University of Technology campus in Rourkela."

Sundargarh district boasts of four sports hostels related to hockey:

  • Panposh Sports Hostel in Rourkela, run by the Odisha government
  • SAI Sports Hostel in Sundarghar, run by the Centre
  • SAIL Hockey Academy in Rourkela, run by the Steel Authority of India Ltd.
  • Sundargarh Hostel

Recently, officials from the State Government, International Federation of Hockey (FIH), Department of Sports and Youth Services and Hockey India had visited Rourkela and reviewed the various ongoing infrastructure upgrades.

Stadium-related Upgrades: The Biju Patnaik hockey stadium will get an astro-turf practice ground, floodlights - a must for hosting internationals, upgraded changing rooms and extra parking space.

City Infrastructure Upgrades: The city will get enhanced air connectivity, advanced healthcare facilities, at least 250 luxury hotel rooms, and smart city/beautification projects as part of the prerequisites for hosting the World Cup.

Rourkela Municipal Corporation Commissioner Dibyajyoti Parida exuded confidence that all Smart City and beautification projects would be completed much before the 2023 World Cup. Sources informed that upgradation of the Ispat General Hospital into a super-speciality hospital will be done in a few months, while luxury upgrades to existing hotels would also be carried out.

The Men's Hockey World Cup dates are January 13-29, 2023.

Media Matters


he FIH engages hockey fans globally across a variety of social media platforms - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, its OTT platform Watch.Hockey, and its official websites (www.FIH.ch and www.FIHProLeague.com).

Horizm is an award-winning provider of digital inventory management in sport. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has confirmed an agreement that will see FIH using Horizm's Artificial Intelligence-powered platform to help hockey's world governing body unlock new digital revenues. Horizm will enable FIH to establish accurate market valuations for its different digital assets. It will also provide FIH with the intelligence and the tools to create new digital content franchises that can be monetised.

Commenting on the announcement, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said, "We're very happy to have engaged on this partnership with Horizm. They can deliver clear measurement as well as an evaluation of our digital assets, and then quantify this for us. This is much needed data which we will use for our current and potential future commercial partners."

Fun With Numbers


Statistics by B. G. Joshi

he January 2021 edition of Fun with Numbers is a statistical survey of Indian hockey. The statistics are current as of 31st December, 2020.

Indian Men's Hockey (1926-2020)

  • World rank no. 4
  • First tournament - Amsterdam Olympics, May 1928 (India win gold)
  • Last tournament - Hockey Pro League, January/February 2020 (tournament ongoing, delayed due to COVID-19)
  • India has played 1730 matches, with 957 wins, 495 losses and 278 draws (55% win percentage)
  • India has played 226 tournaments, winning 55 Gold, 51 Silver and 42 Bronze (24% win percentage)
  • India has played 146 test series vs. 30 countries, with 93 wins, 34 losses and 19 draws (64% win percentage)
  • India has played against 60 countries, most vs. Pakistan. Against Pakistan, India has played 175 matches, with 62 wins, 82 losses and 31 draws (35% win percentage)
  • Since 1960, Least Internationals played by India in a year are: 1961 (3), 1977 (4), 1969 (5), 1997 and 2020 (6); the low 2020 total is due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In 2020, 9 players scored a total of 17 goals for India. Top Scorers were: Rupinderpal Singh (5), Mandeep Singh (3) and Lalit Upadhyay/Rajkumar Pal (2)
  • In 2020, India played only 6 internationals, two each against the top 3 countries in the world. Match records are as below:
Opponent Rank Tournament MP W L D GF GA
Australia 2 Hockey Pro League 2 0 1 1* 5 6
Belgium 1 Hockey Pro League 2 1 1 - 4 4
Netherlands 3 Hockey Pro League 2 1 - 1* 8 5
    Total 6 2 2 2 17 15
*India won the match in the shootout

Indian Women's Hockey (1952-2020)

  • World rank no. 9
  • First tournament - Folkestone Tournament in Kent, England, September 1952 (India finish 11th out of 16)
  • Last tournament/series - Internationals vs. Great Britain and New Zealand, January/February 2020
  • India has played 790 matches, with 320 wins, 333 losses and 137 draws (42% win percentage)
  • India has played 106 tournaments, winning 21 Gold, 16 Silver and 15 Bronze (20% win percentage)
  • India has played 60 test series vs. 26 countries, with 24 wins, 28 losses and 8 draws (40% series win percentage)
  • India has played against 55 countries, most vs. Japan. Against Japan, India has played 67 matches, with 17 wins, 34 losses and 16 draws (25% win percentage)
  • Since 1982 (Delhi Asian Games), Least Internationals played by India in a year are 0 in 1995
  • In 2020, 4 players scored a total of 5 goals for India. They are: Navneet Kaur (2) and Rani Rampal/Saleema Tete/Sharmila Devi (1 apiece)
  • In 2020, India played only 4 internationals (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Match records are as below
Opponent Rank Tournament MP W L D GF GA
Great Britain 5 One-off Test 1 1 - - 1 0
New Zealand 6 3-Test Series 3 1 2 - 4 3
    Total 4 2 2 0 5 3