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Why

Friday, 29 August 2014

FROM A SEPOY TO A MAJOR - DHYAN CHAND'S HOCKEY JOURNEY - PART III

Carrying on his duty as a 'Naik' in the Indian army, Dhyan Chand participated in the tournaments such as Beighton Cup and Lakshmibilas Cup, which were held annually. Representing Jhansi Heroes, a club which he founded along with his other 'hockey' enthusiasts was a regular in winning these prestigious trophies at that time.

TRIP DOWN UNDER
In December 1934, IHF (Indian Hockey Federation) had decided to send the Indian team for a tour of New Zealand for the upcoming year. Naturally, Dhyan Chand was selected and he was thrilled by this prospect as it brought back fond memories of his 1926 tour. A team composed mostly of youngsters were selected with Behram Doctor and Pankaj Gupta entrusted with the job of being the managers.

The team assembled in Madras on April 13, 1935 where the first match of the tour was played. Then the team left for Colombo where they played a further two exhibition matches. Finally on April 17, the Indian team left for Fremantle, Australia on the S.S. Largs Bay of the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line. Indian hockey was still struggling to put together basic funds and hence could not afford travel through air.

A STOP OVER IN AUSTRALIA FOR HOCKEY
While the destination was New Zealand; the prospects of Indian hockey team visiting Australia, many of their state hockey associations requested over wire whether they could play few matches in major Australian cities. The same was informed to the New Zealand authorities and they gave the green signal for the Indian team to play in Australia before arriving in New Zealand.

On April 27, the Indian team landed in Perth, Western Australia. A hockey match and followed by a reception from the local authorities were soon to be the norm for these players. After Perth, it was time to visit the land of Sir Donald Bradman, Adelaide.

In Adelaide, the mayor of the city gave a reception to the Indian team. During that occasion, Pankaj Gupta requested if he could arrange for the team to meet Don Bradman, who was then in the city. Whose fortune was it? Dhyan Chand meeting Don Bradman or the other way around? Bradman visited the Indian team at the City Hall and posed for a photograph too! The same evening, Bradman witnessed his first ever hockey match which saw Indians score a thumping win against a South Australia XI 10-1.I bet he would have enjoyed for sure; as the goal scoring spree matched Bradman's knack of scoring runs.

MAORI SHIELD
Next stop was Melbourne and then Sydney before the team left for Wellington on May 13. During that tour the Indian team were welcomed by the Maoris at Kaiti. After giving a traditional haka welcome, Maoris enquired if a friendly match with All-Maori XI was a possibility. A match with Maoris was scheduled at the end of the tour. On that occasion, Maoris presented the Indian team with a carved shield - which became the trophy for the Inter-Provincial Championship in India until partition and then it went to Pakistan and never returned. The proprietors of The Hindu and Sport & Pastime, presented a new trophy - the Rangaswami Memorial Cup during the 1951 championship in Chennai.

The tour to down under was rounded off with a hurried match against the Australian team which the Indians won comfortably 12-0. Three more matches in Ceylon, two more in Chennai and the 1935 tour finally culminated on September 10.

A total of 48 matches were played on that tour with India scoring 584 goals and conceding only 40 goals. Dhyan Chand scored 201 goals from 43 matches he played. Not surprisingly, India won all its 48 matches on that grand tour.

SELECTION FOR BERLIN OLYMPICS
To defend the Olympic gold medal, the IHF did not hesitate much in deciding to send a team for the 1936 Olympics. The same norm like the previous two editions were followed and Bengal was the automatic choice for hosting the Inter-Provincial championships - which also served as a platform for selecting the Olympic team. Dhyan Chand once again did not take part as the army and IHF felt he had done enough to be in the team. This fact bothered Dhyan Chand and he could not do anything about it.

Thirteen teams took part in the championships. After a series of matches, the final showdown was between Bengal and Manavadar. Bengal won the close game 1-0 and took the Maori shield - which now served as the official trophy for the winners. Immediately after the tournament, the selection panel from IHF chose 18 players. IHF President Sir Jagadish Prasad (Member, Viceroy's Commission) threw in his hat and chose Dhyan Chand as the captain. He was to be ably supported by Jagannath as the manager and Pankaj Gupta as the assistant manager. And after having been a pivot in the previous two editions, Dhyan Chand finally got his due - a simple man with humble background was now given the task to lead the Indian team at the Olympics. His dream is no longer a dream!

A RARE LOSS
The grand tour began with a match against Delhi on June 16, a game which the Olympic team lost by 4 goals to one. Was this the right team? or was it just one-off day similar to the match which was played against Bombay prior to the team's departure to Amsterdam?

More so for Dhyan Chand, who did not take this defeat easily and pondered whether India would lose under his captaincy at the Olympics. The team then won their matches at Jhansi, Bhopal, Chennai, Bangalore and in Mumbai before setting foot on the P&O line Ranpura on June 27.   

As the ship sailed on the Arabian sea, it was tough on some of the new players who were not used to the roughness of the sea and plus it was the monsoon season. The journey was to Marseilles with a stopover at Malta. From Marseilles, the team had to take a train to Paris, where the squad spent a day visiting some of the marvels Paris is well-known for.

BERLIN FOR THE GAMES
A night train to Berlin from Paris on a non-sleeping third class seats was the way the Olympic gold medallists and the defending champions reached the capital city of Germany. From then on, the hospitality of the organising committee ensured the Indian players were well looked after. Unlike the temporary structures used at LA, the Olympic village at this edition was a pure steel and brick affair.

It was 1936 and Adolf Hitler was just a few years away from unleashing his dark side. He used Olympics to demonstrate to the world the progress Germany had made and showcase its power of the military regime. People with military attire were everywhere; be it Hermann Goering or Dr. Goebbel or the German athletes - majority of them participating came from the army.

On July 17 the Indian team faced a German international side as a part of their practice match. A shock defeat at the hands of the host, a result which came as a surprise. How well have the German side had made great strides in hockey. Dhyan Chand and the two managers sat and discussed the line-up and seeing the poor form of India's inside-right, an SOS was sent to IHF to draft in a replacement player in place of Masood. Dara was sent and he only reached Berlin on the day of their penultimate match. This replacement was a contingency plan to tackle the German side should they meet India in the finals. Indian team played another seven matches before taking the Olympic field and won these games without any hiccups.

THREE IN A ROW
First match against Hungary - result 4-0. Next up USA and this time the defence of the American team was far better than the previous edition as they lost the match 0-7. Two matches and two wins - surely it was not making headlines. Indians were expected to win every match they played; the only question remained by how many goals!

Japan fought hard and kept the score 0-0 for the first twenty minutes. Then the goals came in a spree and the final score went in India's favour 9-0. Next up was France, a calk walk if you may call it! 10-0 and India into the finals and this time against Germany.

THE FINALE
The finals of the clash between the best two hockey teams was postponed as a result of rain. With a bad pitch and scars from the earlier defeat to the German side, the Indian team wasted no time in requesting for the finals to be played next day. Last day of the Olympics, these two teams clashed on the morning of 15 August, a date which is forever associated with India and back then it was just another day.

In front of the 40,000 people and against a confident and well-matched German side, the battle was on. Germany adopted India's tactics of short passes which helped them to keep the score down to 0-1 at half-time. The last half saw Indians unleash an all-out attack on the Germans and score 7 goals. Germans pulled one back - the only goal they managed to score in the finals and it also was the only goal conceded by the Indian team in the tournament. Dhyan Chand scored yet another hatrick and this time he led India for a third successive Olympic gold medal.

A special correspondent from the Hindu summed had to say this - "The game was played at a fast pace and was packed with thrilling incidents. The Germans undercut and lifted the ball, but the Indian team countered with brilliant half-volleying and amazing long shots. Dhyan Chand discarded his spiked shoes and stockings and played with bare legs and rubber soles and became speedier in the second half." 
                                                         Indian team for the 1936 Olympics                                    Image Courtesy - The Hindu 

MYTH WITH HITLER
Growing up this story was a thing of a legend. I am not sure if there is any substance to it. The story goes this way that Hitler amazed by Dhyan Chand's play offered him a big post in his army if he accepted to play for Germany. Now I wonder, why on earth will Hitler do such a thing? But again, its Hitler!

As far I can track or what I have read from Dhyan Chand's autobiography, there is no mention of this story. Perhaps, he might have given this offer in private and the matter remained that way. Hitler was present at the victory ceremony and at the grand banquet which was held in the Deustche Hall right after the closing ceremony. Dhyan Chand along with his comrades left the banquet early as they had to board the train to commence their post-Olympic tour of the Continent.

IT ENDED THE WAY IT BEGAN
The last of the tour match was played in Zürich on a gravel ground lit by floodlights. On September 17, the team on board the P&O steamer Strathmore sailing to Mumbai. The heroes were on their way home and what kind of reception would they get this time around? In the railway stations of Germany there were many enthusiasts gathered to greet the Indian players who had to be cordoned by volunteers. Imagine what would be the state in India. The Ballard Pier unlike the first time had just two representatives - Behram Doctor from Bombay Hockey Association and Mukherjee from Bombay Olympic Association. And the heroes went on with their schedule and played out their remaining matches. In total, the 1936 tour comprised out of 39 matches. 37 wins and just two defeats (Delhi XI and German XI ).

END NOTE
Dhyan Chand continued playing hockey and his promotions within the army came frequently. Right after the Olympics, he was made an 'Other Rank' and in 1938 as a Jamadar. WW II curtailed his international hockey career and more so the Olympics. He became a Lieutenant in 1943 and a Captain, a year after India got its independence. He played his final match in April 1949 at the age of 44 and many claim he still was in top form that day. In 1956, at the age of 51, he finally retired from the army with the rank of Major. Indian hockey team in 1956 had won its sixth gold medal - six in a row from Amsterdam till Melbourne. In present day India, Dhyan Chand's birthday (29 August) is celebrated as National Sports Day.

Dhyan Chand taught hockey post retirement at several places and on 3 December 1979 he was gone. A few months later, the Indian hockey team won its last gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. And since then the team has never finished above fifth.

Internal politics, power struggles, I vs. the team, narrow mindedness and the list goes on. I believe it is an insult that so far Indian hockey has not been able to adapt to the modern requirements. There was a time when all the teams in the world turned to India and even copied its style to play better.


And now, where have we headed for and whom should we turn to?