The Best Hockey Player In India, Major Dhyan Chand, has graced the game. He was known as ‘The Wizard’ for a reason. He was brilliant with the stick-work and ball control. Many people might not be aware of the fact Dhyan Chand was not his actual name. He was, in fact, named ‘Dhyan Singh’ by his parents, but was named Dhyan ‘Chand’ (moon) by his teammates, as he used to practice in the moonlit night.
Dhyan Chand was born on August 29, 1905, in Allahabad, now known as Prayagraj. In addition to earning three gold medals, in 1928, 1932 and 1936, he was also known for his splendid goal-scoring feats. He was famous during an era when India dominated field hockey. His influence extended beyond victories as, during his reign, India won the field hockey event in seven out of eight Olympics, from 1928 to 1964.
Chand exclusively played army hockey tournaments and regimental games between 1922 and 1926. He was finally selected for the Indian Army team, to tour New Zealand. The team won 18 matches, drew 2 and just lost 1, and received tons of praises from all spectators. In the next two test matches against New Zealand, the team won the first and lost the second. The newly formed Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) made preparations to send its best team for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.
An Inter-Provincial Tournament was held in 1925 to select the team members. Five teams–Punjab, Bengal, Rajputana, United Provinces (UP) and Central Provinces, participated in the inaugural nationals. He got permission from the Army to play for the United Provinces.
A newspaper report read as: “It is not a game of hockey, just magic. Dhyan Chand is, in fact, the wizard of hockey.”
India defeated Germany in the 1936 Olympics finals by 8–1, even Adolf Hitler offered him a senior post in the German Army, which Chand refused. Dhyan Chand even won three Olympic Gold medals for India, Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936) Olympics. He is the highest goal scorer in hockey, scoring over 400 goals across his term. Australian legendary batsman, Don Bradman paid a glowing tribute to him and said, “He scores goals like runs in cricket”.
The National Sports Day is celebrated on his birthday – 29th August. He is the one and only recipient of the Padma Bhushan (1956) among hockey players. Dhyan Chand’s hockey stick was the subject of extensive research as it was claimed that he had a magnet in his stick. Even, that he applied glue on his stick. But all of the claims were false. To prove his quality, Dhyan Chand once used a lady spectator’s walking stick to score a goal.
Chand was honored at India’s National Stadium in 1951. He retired from the army in 1956 at age 51, with the rank of Major. The Government of India honored him that year by presenting him the Padma Bhushan. He taught at coaching camps at Mount Abu, Rajasthan after retirement. Later, he accepted the position of Chief Hockey Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala for several years. Chand spent his last days in his hometown of Jhansi, UP.
Dhyan Chand remains a legendary figure in the world of hockey. His skills have been glorified in various stories. He had an extraordinary control over his stick and on dribbling the ball. The 20th National Award 2012 was given to Dhyan Chand posthumously. The award was received by Ashok Dhyan Chand (a hockey Olympian), Dhyan Chand’s son on behalf of his father. It was given by the Journalist Association Of India at Sirifort Auditorium, New Delhi, India
India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is named after the hockey wizard – Dhyan Chand Award. It has been awarded annually since 2002 to sports figures, who not only contributed through their performance but also contributed to the sports field after their retirement. The National Stadium, Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002 in the honor of the hockey wizard.
Chand died on 3 December 1979 at AIIMS, Delhi. He was cremated at the Jhansi Heros ground in his hometown, Jhansi. Even his regiment, the Punjab Regiment, accorded him full military honours. May his soul rest in peace.