The Importance Of Dhyan Chand In Indian Sport

Article by Tushar Bhaduri, courtesy The Indian Express, File Photograph ANI

he Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award was renamed the Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award on 6th August, 2021. This rechristening of the country's highest sporting honour after one of the country's legendary names could be termed political one-upmanship or a decision that didn't come a day too soon, depending on the way one looks at it. But what can't be denied is the emotional resonance Dhyan Chand's name carries, and what he meant for Indian hockey, and Indian sports in general.

Who was Dhyan Chand?

Quite simply, he was the first superstar of hockey, and was considered a wizard or magician of the game. He was the chief protagonist of India's three consecutive Olympic hockey gold medal triumphs - Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932, and Berlin 1936.

He is said to have wowed the watching public with his sublime skills, intricate dribbling and prodiguous scoring ability. During those tournaments, there was no team that could compete with India, and most of the matches saw huge victory margins. India beat hosts the Netherlands 3-0 in the 1928 Olympic hockey final, the United States were thrashed by a scarcely-believable margin of 24-1 in the 1932 Olympic gold medal match, while Germany went down 8-1 in the 1936 Olympic final. In all, Dhyan Chand played 12 Olympic matches, scoring 33 goals.

What are some of the tales and anecdotes associated with Dhyan Chand?

It is said that once his sublime skill and close control of the ball aroused such suspicion that his stick was broken to see whether there was a magnet inside. One has to remember that the game was played on natural grass in those days in contrast to the astro turf now, and the surface would often be bumpy and uneven, making ball control difficult for lesser mortals.

During the 1936 Berlin Games, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, a proponent of Aryan racial superiority, was so enamoured with Dhyan Chand's play that he offered him German citizenship and the post of Colonel in his country's Army, an offer the Indian ace refused.

Why does the name evoke such emotion?

Dhyan Chand played during India's pre-independence years, when the local population was subjugated and made to feel inferior by the ruling British. Hence, seeing an Indian dominate the Europeans in a sport invented by them evoked a lot of pride in them.

Before Independence and for some years after that, hockey was the only sport in which India consistently excelled at the international and Olympic stage. In fact, between Amsterdam 1928 and Tokyo 1964, India won seven of the eight Olympic hockey gold medals.

There were other great contemporary players, like K D Singh 'Babu', Roop Singh, and Balbir Singh Sr., but Dhyan Chand's name was always taken first.

How has Dhyan Chand been recognised till now?

There has been a long-running campaign arguing that Dhyan Chand be posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest honour. There was a big debate around the time of the retirement of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in 2013 about which sportsperson, if any, was deserving of the accolade. Tendulkar was eventually conferred the honour, but arguments for Dhyan Chand have continued nonetheless.

Dhyan Chand's birthday, August 29, is celebrated as National Sports Day with the President giving away the Arjuna Awards and the other honours, including the Khel Ratna award, now named after Dhyan Chand himself. An award for lifetime achievement in sport is already named after him.

The Capital's National Stadium was renamed Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Why is the renaming of the Khel Ratna award on 6th August, 2021 significant?

The eight gold medals in hockey have often been termed as the millstone around the necks of the subsequent generation of players. The modern game is an altogether different sport from the one played in Dhyan Chand's era. The Europeans and Australians have become much more proficient over the decades, while the change of surface has put a premium on fitness, speed, stamina, and physical strength.

India had not managed to get into the top four at the Olympics since the boycott-affected Moscow Games in 1980. The later generations may have felt out of touch with the golden years, about which one could only read in books or listen to in tales of the protagonists and those who witnessed the heroics.

In that context, the performance of the Indian men's and women's hockey teams in Tokyo can re-ignite large-scale interest in the game. Hockey may not have a fandom like cricket, but it's definitely followed, especially when India play a major tournament.

Renaming the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna after Dhyan Chand may ensure that the current and subsequent generations know about the original superstar of hockey.

Meet The Coach Of First Indian Hockey Team To Medal In 41 Years

Article by Rahul Venkat. Article and photograph courtesy Olympic Channel

he Tokyo Olympics has been the best campaign for the Indian men's hockey team in decades - they broke a 41-year medal drought with a bronze medal win against Germany.

The Indian men's hockey team - winners of eight Olympic golds, one silver and two bronze medals - had never even managed to make the semi-finals of any Summer Olympics since 1980. It reflects significant progress for the Indian men's hockey team and at the heart of it is their head coach Graham Reid.

So who is Graham Reid?

A native of Queensland, Australia, Graham Reid was a former hockey player for the Australian national team (130 international caps), where he played as a defender and at time midfielder. He won the silver medal with the Australian hockey team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was a part of four Champions Trophy-winning teams (1984, 1985, 1989, 1990). Graham Reid also has a bronze from the 1990 Hockey World Cup. Intriguingly, the Australian has worked in industries as diverse as mining and credit insurance after his playing career.

However, Graham Reid is best known for his coaching exploits. Reid's first coaching assignment was with the Australian men's team in 2009, when he was appointed assistant coach to the legendary Ric Charlesworth - who had briefly served as technical advisor to the Indian hockey teams. Graham Reid served as the assistant for five years.

When Charlesworth stepped down after the 2014 Commonwealth Games - where Australia beat India in the final to claim their fifth gold - Graham Reid was promoted to the top job. Reid coached Australia to the Hockey World League Semi-final title (2015 Antwerp) and the Hockey World League Final title (2015 Raipur). He took Australia to the 2016 Rio Olympics - where they finished sixth after being eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Graham Reid quit the Australian team post Rio 2016 and moved to the Dutch national men's team to work as assistant to head coach Max Caldas, where Caldas and Reid guided the Netherlands team to the 2018 World Cup silver medal. Reid also worked as head coach of the Amsterdam Club in the Netherlands, for whom he had played earlier in 1993-1994.

When the Indian men's hockey team was looking for its next head coach after the sacking of Harendra Singh in January 2019, Graham Reid was persuaded by his former mentor Ric Charlesworth to take up the position. The Australian was confirmed as head coach of the Indian men's team in April 2019 and shifted based to Bengalurur, imbibing an attacking philosophy and fast-paced style of play since he came in.

Under his tutelage, the Indian men's hockey team has risen to its best-ever ranking of world No. 3. Graham Reid has introduced several youngsters like Dilpreet Singh, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Mandeep Singh and Varun Kumar into the team - all of whom have been impressive at the Tokyo Olympics.

A first Olympic medal since 1980 is the perfect reward for the hard work the team has put over the past two years with Graham Reid, and hopefully, will act as a platform for more success in the coming years.

Meet The Scientific Adviser To The Indian Women's Hockey Team

Article and photograph by Amit Kamath, courtesy FirstPost

ayne Lombard, the Indian women's hockey team's scientific adviser since 2017, spoke to Firstpost about the process that went into improving the team's fitness levels.

First Impressions

When I first arrived and saw the profile of the players, I thought there is a lot of work that needs to be done. It was a process to get them to buy in and trust me as a person first, and then looking at the fitness side and get them to understand the process.

My approach to anything is to put them as human beings first and get them to trust me as a person and trust the process. They understood slowly that I worried about them as human beings, but also that I wanted to make them better athletes.

I wouldn't take any leave. I would be in India pretty much most of the time, taking leave once a year. Sometimes when the rest of the team was home, I would be working with an injured player at the SAI Bengaluru camp.

They saw that and figured that this guy is here to actually help us. He's not here just go through the motions. It's not just a job for him. If you show that you're working 100 percent for them, the buy-in process takes care of itself.

I wanted to empower them to make their decisions by the time I am finished here. If they can do a gym session or a conditioning session without me, then I know I have made them, not just fitter, but also better athletes, who understand what they need to do as individual athletes.

Fitter, Faster, More Agile

When I started in 2017, the one area I really had to focus on was the physical side of things. The girls just were not exposed to the type of training that is required to play at the international level. The general endurance levels (of the players) were really poor in 2017. They couldn't keep up the intensity that is required in a hockey game to genuinely compete.

They started from a very low base. When you start from a low base, your body adapts a lot quicker as long as you do it smartly. This made things easier as we could progress quite quickly. But to get them from a decent level to international standards was slightly more difficult.

The increased exposure to playing against Western teams, who are really physical, has helped us. Once they realised the importance of physicality behind hockey, they also started enjoying the process. They bought into it better. They started realising that the fitter they feel the easier the game feels.

Yo-yo Test

When I first came, the players were averaging around 16-17 on the yo-yo test. Now the team averages between 19-21. So, they've improved. It's not about me. It's about the girls putting in the effort.

This comparison about hockey and cricket players' yo-yo test numbers has always been in news. The girls are really fit. Our fittest player has a score of 22 or 23. That's some serious running. I am not so sure what the men's hockey team's average is, but they are quite high - about 23. It's up where they need to be. Our norms for all our fitness at the moment is within the range of all the Western teams, or better.

Match Fitness

In hockey, you're looking at anywhere between 15-20% of high-intensity running for the duration of a match. When I started, the girls really struggled to get that sort of percentage. And now they get that pretty easily as a team.

What I like to see is the robustness and resilience from game to game, can they produce it over eight games. Anyone can produce great output over one game. But then they'll be dead for the rest of the tournament. My approach is that we need to be able to do this over eight consecutive games and stand up to teams like Great Britain - which has got a big support staff, has all the facilities in the world, and knows how to play in such games.

Recovering Better

The process for me has been that we're going to train hard, but we're also going to recover well. In the past, what would happen with them is that they would train completely to the hilt (before a tournament), and they never really knew what it is like to go into a tournament feeling fresh. So, you cannot project any of the work you have done in training in the actual competition.

I wanted them not only to learn how to train properly but also focus on how they're recovering properly. I wanted to teach them how to feed their bodies properly, so we got some dieticians within India to work on this with the players.

Hockey is a little bit different from rugby or cricket. We've played eight games now in the space of 13 days. This is very intense, not many sports actually have this at all. That too in such heat. But if you saw, the girls were able to keep up with their opponents in every single game in Tokyo.

Their recovery process was really good. One day is enough for them to recover. We haven't had an injury since one mouth leading into the Olympics. There are always niggles, but we've not had to pull someone out.

The key thing is now everyone realises that there's a process. It's not an overnight thing that happens. We used to lose to teams like Great Britain quite easily. And now the girls have had a loss by a 3-4 margin, and they are distraught because they think they should have won the game. That's a process too, where they've realised that they have got serious potential. From hockey skills to fitness - everything's coming together for the Indian women's team now.

The Sports Memorabilia Collector Extraordinaire Of World Hockey

Stan Salazaar with a part of his hockey pin collection

person who has a car license plate that states HOCKEY1 has to be a special kind of hockey fan. The owner of the car being referenced is Perth-based Stan Salazaar, who has the largest one-man collection of hockey memorabilia in the world.

Stan's collection, over the course of the past 35 years, comprises hundreds of hockey books, lapel pins/badges, stamps, program guides and magazines. Stan's books on Indian hockey include:

Year Book Title Pin Description
1952 Goal Dhyan Chand
1978 Olympic Hockey on AstroTurf Gian Singh
1982 To Hell With Hockey Aslam Sher Khan
1984 Wills Book of Excellence - Hockey Ron Hendricks
1992 Dhyan Chand - The Legend Lives On Niket Bhushan
1995-99 Hockey Year Books (1995, 98, 99) Arumugam
2000 The Golden Boot Kaushik/Arumugam

Stan is looking for the following books to add to his collection

  • Romance of Hockey, by M. L. Kapur (1967)
  • Bengal Hockey Association Golden Jubilee: 1908-1958
  • The World's Hockey Champions by M. N. Masood.(1937)
  • Story of the Olympics by Melville de Mellow
  • Hockey in India by W. Troup (1908)
  • Cherished Moments with a Stick by John D'Abrew

Stan was born in Akola, while his wife Margaret was born in Bhusaval. He studied at La Martiniere school in Lucknow. Stan has fond memories of being coached by K. D. Singh 'Babu' while playing hockey in Uttar Pradesh. He went to England in 1959 and spent 12 years there, before settling in Australia.

Hockey Olympians (late) M. K. Kaushik and Merwyn Fernandes have stayed with Stan in Perth. Stan played veterans hockey for Western Australia in the Australian Veterans Championship.

Stan says, "I am always on the lookout to add to to my hockey collection.It is harder these days as there are not too many hockey books being published, and hockey pins/badges are even scarcer.I still enjoy hunting around though. I am looking for collectors in the hope of exchanging my many pins/badges and other duplicates. I can be reached at"

A sampling of duplicate pins that Stan has is shown below.

Pin No. Country Pin Description
1 Australia Northern Territory Hockey Association
2 Global International Federation of Women's Hockey Association
3 New Zealand Hockey New Zealand
4 United Kingdom Wales Women's Hockey Association
5 Spain Spain Hockey Federation 75th Anniversary
6 Australia Queensland Hockey Association
7 Australia Australian Capital Territory Hockey Association
8 South Korea Korea Hockey Association
9 Australia South Australia Hockey Association
10 Australia Hockey Victoria
11 Australia New South Wales Hockey Association
12 Belgium Royal Belgium Hockey Association
13 Japan Keino University Hockey Club

Stan watched the Tokyo Olympics on television, especially men's and women's hockey. He had the following to say, "I must congratulate Japan for putting on a good show despite the lack of spectators and strict restrictions on the participants.The Indian men's hockey team did wellt to win a long overdue bronze medal.The Indian women's team lost their first 3 matches, but finished the tournament well to come an unlucky fourth.I never gave them a chance against Australia but they prevailed.Some of the girls have exceptional skills.The good showing of both teams should hopefuly give hockey in India a huge boost."

Photograph of the Month

Welcome reception for the Indian men's and women's Olympic hockey teams at Bhubanesvar
Article by Shantanu Srivastava of Firstpost, photograph courtesy Sports Odisha

he Photograph of the Month for September 2021 is of a reception to the Indian men's and women's Olympic hockey teams at Bhubanesvar, after their successful exploits at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In the words of Vineel Krishna, currently serving the Odisha government as Secretary Sports and Youth.

"I still remember the day India's men's hockey team won the historic bronze at Tokyo Olympics. All my staff and most people I know woke up early and watched the match in their houses, and the only conversation we had throughout the day revolved around the India-Germany match. More than the result, I think what captured the attention of people here was the way India played.

The medal means so much to Odisha, as it does to the rest of the country. A lot of people are now recognising and appreciating Odisha government's support for hockey.

We have organised so many top tournaments at the Kalinga Stadium, and we are always pleasantly surprised to see the crowds turning up in full capacity for each game. I have witnessed crowds in Kalinga even during pouring rain. They would just hold their umbrellas and relish the game; that's the kind of love they have for hockey.

So, in a way, supporting our hockey teams is Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's way of honouring people's sentiments and wishes. The idea to sponsor hockey teams germinated from a very simple and pure emotion - to support this beautiful game and encourage more people to take up hockey. On a personal front, the Chief Minister has a special place for hockey because he played as a goalkeeper in his school days.

Thanks to our men's and women's hockey teams, we have seen something special in Tokyo. I wish them all the best, and assure them of every support possible."

Money Matters

Article by Romita Das, courtesy India Today

disha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's tryst with hockey began six decades ago, when as a student at Doon School, he guarded his team's goalpost as a goalkeeper. In the past three years, he has been the biggest benefactor of Indian hockey, lavishing money and resources on the sport.

Since 2018, the Odisha government has sponsored both the men's and women's national hockey teams, stepping in as sponsor when business group Sahara withdrew. Odisha drew up an agreement under which it agreed to pay ₹120 crore over five years, with the money going toward building infrastructure and logistical support. Apart from this, all expenses of both the teams—for boarding, training, education and nurturing talent—are borne by the state exchequer. State sports minister Tusharkanti Behera says Odisha has increased its sports budget (from which the hockey teams are funded) from ₹265 crore to ₹370 crore this year.

This is the first time a state has taken the responsibility of supporting a national team. In 2018, Odisha hosted the Men's Hockey World Cup at its brand-new Kalinga Stadium. At the time, when asked why his state was taking responsibility for what the Centre should have been doing, Patnaik was clear. "Someone has to take responsibility, to spare embarrassment to the country and the sport."

In 2021, the state will spend ₹190 crore to build 17 astroturf pitches in 17 blocks of Sundargarh district, located about 370 km from Bhubanesvar, and considered the cradle of the game in Odisha. The government is prioritising developing this infrastructure to ensure that budding hockey players have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with it and to learn the tricks of the trade on a pitch similar to those they will play on in international tournaments.

The state sports academy in Sundargarh identifies budding talent as young as eight or ten years of age, through school competitions or the recommendations of games and PT teachers. "School education and mass education departments are involved in identifying talented players. We use school playgrounds and school sports teachers for primary level screening; district sports officers are also there to help," says Behera.

The real training begins once talented players are recruited and sent to sports hostels, where they receive coaching and education to develop their physical and mental faculties. Odisha has 16 sports hostels across 15 districts, in addition to a sports academy at Sundargarh, and ten high-performance centres for various sports, including hockey, to train budding players. The sports academy houses 1,250 trainees, the majority of whom are potential players in inter-state, national and international tournaments and matches.

Once they are ready, they graduate to high performance centres to give their skills a professional edge, and most importantly, to receive exposure to professional games. The government opened the high-performance centre for hockey in collaboration with Tata Trust and Tata Steel - the Naval Tata Hockey Academy in Bhubanesvar.

By hosting major tournaments in the past five years - including the 2018 World Cup, the 2014 Champions Trophy in 2014, 2017 Hockey World League Final, 2020 Olympic Qualifiers at the iconic Kalinga Stadium in Bhubanesvar - the Odisha government ensured that Indian players had a brush with global talent to get used to world-class tournaments and to hone their skills. It is also spending ₹110 crore to build a world class sports stadium at Rourkela for the 2023 Men's Hockey World Cup.

All this has paid dividends to the hockey-loving chief minister. On August 5, when the men in blue ensured a bronze for India, breaking a four-decade-long jinx, an ecstatic Patnaik tweeted: "Brilliant in Blue. Congratulations Indian Men's Hockey Team on spectacular victory. This historic win at #Tokyo 2020 will inspire generations of sportspersons. All the very best for the future. #Cheers4India @hockeyIndia."

Media Matters

Image courtesy the Kapil Sharma Show on Sony Entertainment Television

embers of India's men's and women's hockey teams graced the Kapil Sharma Show on Saturday, 28th August. Kapil said that it was an honour and a privilege to have the two teams, who have made India proud, as his guests on the show. The audience saw the fun and hilarious side of Indian hockey players, as they indulged in banter with host Kapil Sharma, Krushna Abhishek and Bharti Singh.

From the women's hockey team, Rani Rampal, Savita Punia, Neha Goyal, Sushila Chanu, Gurjeet Kaur, Vandana Katariya and Navneet Kaur were seen on the show. From the men's team, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Singh, P. R. Sreejesh, Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Harmanpreet Singh were the guests.

The men's team recounted their experience of talking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their bronze win at the Olympics. They also talked about dealing with the language barrier in Japan and other countries.

While pointing out the number of Punjabi team members from both the hockey teams in attendance, the host jokingly asked them, "Aap apni marzi se aaye hai ki Sidhuji ne bheja hai? (Did you come on your own accord, or did the Punjab politician Navjot Singh Sidhu send you to the show?)"

When Kapil asked Lalit Upadhyay on how he decided to join the sport instead of studying further. Lalit replied, "Padhai ki baat karein toh hum bhi utna hi gaye hai college jitna aap gaye hai (I have studied as much as you)." His hilarious answer left everyone in splits.

The women's team fielded questions on whether they like to wear makeup or not. One of the players also mimicked Bharti Singh, leaving her stumped. All the players also danced on the stage with the show's team.

Kapil then got all to burst out in laughter when he asked them if they have any other dreams, now that they met the country's Prime Minister and now have met him. Giving him a fitting reply, a member of the men's hockey team asked him. "Yeh batao, aapne kabi socha ki hum Olympic medalist yaha pe ayenge (Did you think you will be hosting Olympic medallists on your show?)"

Tthe host questioned the women players if they felt like wearing makeup while playing the game at the Tokyo Olympics, as millions were watching them. He then added that they may not do so because the coach would not recognise them once the makeup fades away because of the heat and sweat.

A special video message from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was played during the show. The state is the sponsor of the Indian men's and women's hockey teams.

The segment ended with all the players dancing on the stage with The Kapil Sharma Show's team.

Records and Statistics

India celebrate their bronze medal win against Germany in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photograph credit Getty Images

his month's edition of records and statistics is on Olympic gold medal winners in men's and women's hockey, updated after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Olympic Men's Hockey

  • India has won the maximum number of medals in Olympic men's hockey with 12 - 8 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze
  • The team that India beat in the bronze medal match at Tokyo 2020 - Germany - is in second place with 11 medals in Olympic men's hockey - 4 Gold, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze
  • Pakistan's 3 gold medals in Olympic men's hockey (1960, 1968, 1984) have all followed India's gold medals in the prior Olympics (1956, 1964, 1980)
  • England (1908) and Germany (1972) are the only countries to win the Olympic men's hockey gold on home soil
  • New Zealand (1976) and Argentina (2016) have entered the semi-finals of Olympic men's hockey only once, and went on to win the gold in their sole appearance
  • 2 continents have not won the Gold medal in Olympic men's hockey - Africa and North America

Olympic Women's Hockey

  • Netherlands has won the maximum number of medals in Olympic women's hockey with 9 - 4 Gold, 2 Silver, 3 Bronze Medals
  • In second place is Argentina with 5 medals in Olympic women's hockey - 0 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze Medals
  • For Australia, it is gold or nothing - they won 3 Gold in Olympic women's hockey, and no other medal
  • Spain (1992) and Australia (2000) are the only countries to win the Olympic women's hockey gold on home soil
  • Zimbabwe participated only once in Olympic women's hockey - 1980 - and won the gold medal in their sole Olympic appearance
  • 3 continents have not won the Gold medal in Olympic women's hockey - Asia, North America and South America