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Saturday 17 December 2011

This ‘Chand’ deserves the ‘Ratna’ first


It is official now. Indian Sports persons are eligible to receive the Bharat Ratna the highest civilian honour in the country. The award was earlier given only for artistic, literary, scientific achievements or "public service of the highest order."


Which means two of India’s finest sporting legends, Sachin Tendulkar and the late hockey wizard Dhyan Chand are being considered to receive the honour.


Incidentally, Don Bradman, the legendary cricketer said that his wife felt that Tendulkar played cricket very much like him. But the  great Don thought that Dhyan Chand “scored goals like runs in cricket” way back in 1935 when both of them met in Adelaide.


However, I think the three-time member of the gold medal winning Indian teams at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, and the 1936 Berlin Olympics (the last of which he captained), Dhyan Chand stands first in the line to receive the much coveted award.


Not only that, for a man who was born Dhyan Singh and re-christened Dhyan Chand (The Hindi word 'Chand' literally means the moon), Dhyan Singh used to practice in the night after his duty hours. He invariably used to wait for the moon to come out so that the visibility in the field (obviously with no floodlights) improved. Hence he was fondly called Chand by his fellow players, as his practice sessions at night invariably coincided with the moon rise !


At a time where a majority of the youngsters are getting carried away by the ball being hit out of the park in the T20 brand of cricket, it is high time we restore the glory of Indian Hockey by awarding Bharat Ratna to Dhyan Chand, the magician of hockey who made the ball dance on the ground like a serpent. Even today, Padma Bhushan Dhyan Chand remains a legendary figure in Indian and world hockey for his magical control over the ball and the way he dribbled with it. 


Chand’s birthday on August 29, is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. The President gives away sport-related awards such as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award on this day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.


India's highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is the Dhyan Chand Award which has been awarded annually from 2002 to sporting figures who not only contribute through their performance but also contribute to the sport after their retirement. Dhyan Chand holds record for the most international goals, i.e. more than 1000. The National Stadium, Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002 in his honour.


Anecdotes (Courtesy Wikipedia)
  • Once, while playing a hockey game, Major Dhyan Chand was not able to score a goal against the opposition team. After several misses, he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post, and amazingly, it was found to not be in conformation with the official width of a goal post (as prescribed under international rules).
  • After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand's magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field. A German newspaper carried a banner headline: 'The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.' The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action.
  • After seeing his prolific play at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Adolf Hitler offered Dhyan Chand, a Major in the British Indian Army, German citizenship and an offer to promote him to the rank of a Colonel (which Dhyan Chand, of course, refused).
  • In Holland, the authorities broke his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside.
  • Residents of Vienna, Austria, honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands and four sticks, depicting his control and mastery over the ball
  • On one occasion, a lady from the audience asked Dhyan Chand to play with her walking stick instead. He scored goals even with it !
(Pic courtesy : www.netindian.in)

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