Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952

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Olympic Fever

Nowadays there is a wide gulf separating the players from the administrators. The two keep to themselves and seldom mingle.

Back in 1928, the IHF convened a meeting of the players and officials to discuss the format of the nationals. Have you heard of a similar approach in modern times? The attitude of the present day IHF officials is not in keeping with my conception of sport. I will not be sorry if I am criticised for my honest views.

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ardly had the echo of the cheering we received on the field died down than the air became thick with whispers, rumours and speculations about who would be selected for the Olympic team. Tongues wagged that this man was a dead certainty, and that man had no chance whatsoever. I must say that the general form of the probables was of equal standard, and it was a very hard job for the selectors to make their choice. The difference between one probable and another was small and negligible.

After the final was over the authorities staged two further trial matches to make up their minds, as they were not quite satisfied with the data available to them from the Inter-Provincial tournament. The first trial match was played on the same day that the final was staged. The venue was the Customs grounds, adjacent to the CFC ground.

An IHF XI opposed the Central Provinces (CP). This was because CP had lost in its first match and the authorities thought that they did not have a fair chance as far as the selection of a national team was concerned. Today, those who are responsible for the selection of players in our country would be well-advised to take a lesson from this. The IHF XI won by two goals to nil. One or two reserves of Bengal who had not yet played were included in the IHF XI. The second and final trial game was played on February 17 between Possibles and Probables.

On Saturday, February 18, 1928, a provisional Olympic team was announced in the press. The selectors, Major Burn-Murdoch and Colonel G. P. W. Hill, announced that the team for the Olympics would be delayed by another 24 hours. I further gathered that the provisional team would meet a side named as Rest of India on the CFC ground that evening. We learned that the final choice of the team would only be made after that evening's game.

Naturally it was a battle of nerves for everyone of us. We first had the impression that the Olympic team would be chosen based on the form shown in the Inter-Provincial tournament. But then the selectors needed more data. Then we were told that the final names would be announced after the two trial matches. It was again delayed. Thereafter our fate was left to a final trial match between a provisional Olympic team and the Rest of India.

This final trial match which decided the fate of all the candidates did not have a single Rajputana player. But we never cared why a certain player was not taken as many people do nowadays. I again quote a description of the final trial match from The Statesman:

"It is very doubtful if better forward play has been witnessed in Kolkata than was provided by the Feroze-Dhyan Chand-Marthins-Seaman combination. It was not only superlative stickwork, there was a touch of genius in every movement. The short passing game was made to look positively brilliant in this game. The judgement of the selectors proved to be well-founded, for the Olympic XI won by two goals to one." As far as I can remember, the two goals came from my stick.

It was at last announced that only thirteen players would be chosen from India, and three or four players who were then in England would be asked to join the Indian team there. One of them was Jaipal Singh, who was then a big name in hockey. He was the mainstay of the Oxford University team. As a full-back, Jaipal Singh had a reputation in England. The natural and obvious choice of captaining the Indian team fell on him and he joined us in England.

The Nawab of Pataudi, that great cricketer, whether he was a Full Blue or a Half Blue in hockey I do not know, also joined us. S. M. Yusuf, then at Cambridge, also added to our number. Our manager, Rosser, looked for a player by the name of L. C. Carberry, who was then in England, to join us, but Carberry could not be traced. He was a well-known player of St. Xavier's College, Kolkata.

On the morning of Sunday, February 19, 1928, the final names of the All-India team were announced. That morning is still green in my memory, even though I was sure my name would be in the list, since it had appeared in the provisional list. Yet one could not be too certain. How we prayed for the dawn to come quickly! Many of us had no sleep. Naturally in every camp talks and speculation were going on.

One thing strikes me greatly when I compare the state of affairs today. Nowadays, however much the authorities try to keep a top secret, in some mysterious way the names leak out. In 1928, all I can say is that not a single soul knew what was in the mind of the two selectors, Major Burn-Murdoch and Col. Hill.

Mr. A. B. Rosser (now dead), who was one of the founders of the IHF and was the Honorary Secretary of the Bengal Hockey Association, was the obvious choice for the post of the manager of the Indian team, and we were glad he was chosen as manager. Rosser was a great player in F. C. College, Lahore, and later settled in Kolkata and played for the Rangers. Mr. Rosser told me later that with his best efforts he could not find out from the selectors how their minds were working.

Then came an alarming story. We heard that because the necessary funds could not be raised, the IHF would be able to send only 11 players instead of 13. It appeared that owing to Bombay, Madras and Burma having turned a deaf ear to the appeal for funds, the trip was short of funds by Rs. 15,000.

The announcement added that only if the deficit could be made good, Shaukat Ali of Bengal and R. A. Norris of CP would accompany the team. It is gratifying to recall now that it was mainly due to Bengal that the funds were made available and these two players were able to make the trip.

If I remember right, the announcement also stated that in the event any of the selected players were not able to make the trip, Boodrie and Lal Shah of Punjab, and C. Deefholts of Bengal would take their place. But no vacancies arose.

A doctor appointed by the IHF examined us and found every member of the team fit. All the players intimated to the IHF their readiness to make the trip.

The biggest surprise was the omission of Ghazanfar Ali, better known as Chunnan, who was easily the best back in the tournament and an obvious choice. Being a UP man and staying with us in the camp, it was a great disappointment to us all when Chunnan was not selected. We learned later that Chunnan was chosen, but the doctor found that a foot injury made him unfit to play. My information is that Chunnan did not find a place in the team, not because of his injured foot, but for some other reason.

After our return from overseas, I met Chunnan in Gwalior during the Scindia Gold Cup hockey tournament. I could discern the agony and pain on his face at not having been able to participate in the Olympics, but he was a good sport. Chunnan, alas, is now no more, and all I would say is "May his soul rest in peace."

Nowadays there is a wide gulf separating the players from the administrators who shape the destinies of the game. The two keep to themselves and seldom mingle. You know what I mean.

After the final trial match, the IHF convened a meeting of the players and the representatives of the provinces which had taken part in the tournament to discuss the continuation of the competition. I did not attend the meeting, but I liked the idea. Will the IHF do likewise today? Back in 1928, the governors of the game thought that the opinion of the players was also necessary.

Major Burn-Murdoch, president of the IHF, explained why the tournament could not be run on the league system because the Calcutta Football Club ground might not have stood the strain imposed on it if the league system was followed. He was glad that all the provinces sportingly accepted this change, made at the eleventh hour.

I am referring to this because in my view it was a grand thing for the IHF president to explain his action to the players and representatives. Have you heard of a similar approach in modern times? The fact remains that the attitude of the present day IHF officials is not in keeping with my conception of sport. I will not be sorry if I am criticised; I am honest in my views and convictions.

The members present at this meeting voted unanimously for the continuance of the tournament, and it was decided that the Inter-Provincial Tournament should be held every two years in different centres. Lahore was chosen as the next venue of the tournament, because Punjab was the only province in addition to Bengal to have taken part in the first competition in 1926.



1928 Olympic Games Photo Identity Card - Courtesy Dayan Goodsir-Cullen