Why

Why

Thursday, 28 August 2014

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

The selection to host the tenth Olympic Games was taken at the 23rd IOC session at Rome in 1923, a good nine years before the event. Los Angeles in United States was given the honour as no other cities made a bid to host the Games. From India's perspective, travelling to Los Angeles would involve twice the cost than it did to travel to Amsterdam.
A lot of critics pointed out since a lot of teams were not taking part at the Olympics, was there any point in sending a hockey team all the way to LA, spending a lot of money? The IHF under the new administration of M. Hayman and Pankaj Gupta were firm in sending a team to LA and to defend the Olympic title.

NO SELECTION TRIAL FOR DHYAN CHAND
A selection trail to select the team bound for LA was organised in Kolkata. Unlike the previous time, Dhyan Chand was not given any permission to take part in the selection trial. He was now part of the Punjab Regiment and the Army sports board felt he should be an automatic choice to play for India. Moreover, the army sports board no longer presided over IHF - it was now down to civilians and this matter of Dhyan Chand did not create any fuss. Dhyan Chand felt he was given a royal treatment and had no choice but to accept the orders while his teammates from the winning squad played in the inter-provincial tournaments for a place to play in LA.

WHAT IS HOCKEY?
One must remember, India was a good decade and a half away from independence. Funds exclusively for sports and for teams touring abroad was uncommon. Back then in 1932, a lot of influential Indians were busy involving themselves in the freedom movement. While IHF was looking for funds, backing from one of these Indians and namely Mahatma Gandhi would spark up the interest and pave the way for receiving funds from banks or donors.

Charles Newham in his capacity as a journalist was asked by IHF to contact Mahatma Gandhi and tell him about the hockey team and their desire to compete at the upcoming Olympics. Mahatma was busy with his political activities and Newham, with great difficulty managed to reach him and explain him the situation from IHF's perspective. All he heard back from Mahatma was - 'What is hockey'?

Mission unsuccessful. a crest-fallen Newham returned back with no success. It was left to Hayman and Pankaj Gupta to convince banks for a loan and they finally managed to get a loan from Punjab National Bank in Kolkata.

AROUND THE WORLD
With IHF left to themselves in arranging for the money, they came with a lot of ideas to generate funds. One such idea was to play a lot of games at selected centres till they reached LA via Pacific Ocean. For their return, Pankaj Gupta came up with an idea and suggested players that few matches will be arranged post the Olympics in the Europe continent which would generate money to pay back the loan.
All players agreed with the idea of playing in Europe and were prepared to forgo their daily non-playing allowances of £2 per week while on tour in Europe. Instead of a simple return fare ticket, all players had round-the-world tickets. Onward via Pacific and return via Atlantic.

WHEN IN TROUBLE, TURN TO BENGAL   
In a repeat of 1928, Bengal was again trusted with the task of creating a financial success out of the 1932 inter-provincial tournament. Ten teams (Bengal, Sindh, Delhi, Gwalior, Mumbai, Rajputana, United Provinces, Bihar & Orissa, Punjab and Railways) as against five in 1928 took part and an exhibition match was held to satisfy the provinces of Bundelkhand and Manavadar which Manavadar won 3-1. Punjab beat Bengal 2-0 in the finals. A further two matches were held and a final decision was made based on these performances. Bengal Hockey Association contributed an amount close to 21,000 INR for the Olympic journey and expenses.

SELECTION WOES
With more teams participating and with Olympic win at stake, each association tried to squeeze in their player. Punjab was represented heavily with seven players while Bengal had just two players with rest coming from either Mumbai, Railways or UP. Along with Dhyan Chand; Richard Allen, Leslie Hammond and Eric Pinniger were the only members who had earlier participated in the 1928 Olympics.

This 15 member squad was headed by Lal Shah Bokhari, a player from Punjab who after partition held an important position in the External Affairs Ministry of Pakistan government and was posted in diplomatic roles in foreign countries. Eric Pinniger who had captained the team at the latter stages in the previous edition was unimpressed with this decision. If not for timely intervention from Charles Newham, Eric Pinniger would not have travelled with the squad.

G.D Sondhi, the then honorary secretary of Indian Olympic Association was chosen as the manager. He alongside his wife travelled separately, stayed separately and left players on their own post Olympics in Europe. Though, Sondhi represented well in social functions, his role as a manager is something I would question, if I were to be present then! Luckily, the team had Pankaj Gupta as their assistant manager. 
       Indian team for the 1932 Olympics, Image Courtesy - Bharatiya Hockey

THE JOURNEY
May 14, 1932 - most of the Olympic bound players assembled in Bhopal. In the next few days, a series of matches were held as a part of fund-raising through gate receipts. Hockey matches were played with the local teams at Bhopal, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Tokyo where the Indian team registered wins in all their matches.
From Yokohama (June 24th 1932) the players left for the Olympics. A lot of Olympic passengers took the same boat (Tatsuta Maru) and the ship resembled a miniature stadium with practice matches on the top deck had Indians playing hockey. 100m running course, swimming pool gave enough athletes some much needed practice during this journey.
In total, India's Olympic contingent had N.C Malik (swimming); Sutton, Venieux and Mehr Chand (Athletics) and the hockey team represented India out of 400 million population! The contingent disembarked in San Pedro, California and then further 10 miles ride to Los Angeles was arranged by the organising committee.
Olympic village made its appearance for the first time - temporary cottages with each having two rooms with a small toilet. Community dining hall and common bathrooms with a separate provision for women as they were not allowed to enter this Olympic village.

HOCKEY IS NOT JUST ICE HOCKEY
A lot of Americans had never seen field hockey before. Ice-hockey remained the only knowledge of hockey to most Americans. Wherever little hockey was played, it was due to the presence of Englishmen and women; mostly women players from Philadelphia. A local Los Angeles daily wrote:

"All the colour, glamour and pageantry of Rudyard Kipling's India might well have found its incarnation in the personnel of the Indian hockey team, which is to represent the land of Mahatma Gandhi.
So agile are the members of the team that they can run the full length of the hockey field, juggling a small wooden ball with the flat of a hockey stick. One who knows nothing of the rigours of hockey should take a warning here. Don't get in the line of fire on a hockey field, for the hockey ball, driven by a forehand or a backhand, is almost as deadly and as accurate as a cannon ball.
Should one doubt this, just let them watch the Indian players in their daily practice on the turf of the University."

LET THE GAMES BEGIN
In absence of US President Herbert Hoover, the Games were officially declared open by vice-president Charles Curtis. Indian clothing comprised of brown shoes, white flannel trousers, a light blue blazer coat with Star of India monogram as the crest and Punjabi turban as the headgear got a loud applause from the crowd during the parade of the nations. Lal Shah Bokhari, captain of the hockey team carried the flag for India - a Union Jack flag with the Star of India embossed on it. 

                  At the parade of the nations, Indian contingent at LA 1932 Olympics    Image Courtesy - The Hindu 

THE MATCHES
On August 4 1932, India played their first match against Japan and won it easily 11-1. Yet, they were disappointed with the fact that, they had conceded a goal - a first for India in the Olympics. Dhyan Chand scored 4 goals.

Next up against USA, a week later and it was a goal feast. Indians won the match 24-1 with Dhyan Chand scoring 8 goals and his brother Roop Singh netting 10 goals. The lone goal by America was from Bodlington.
Three teams took part at the Olympics and India by a huge margin won the gold medal and thereby defended their 1928 title. All fifteen players who were selected took part in these two games and a happy contingent was prepared to leave USA on a high note.

A lot of Indians watched the match and some were generous enough to organise funds to the extent of $200 to meet the deficit of the Olympic fund.

RETURN JOURNEY AND MORE HOCKEY
The Indian contingent visited few of the touristic sites in California before they left for New York. During this journey, they relaxed by bathing at some of the famous salt lakes of Salt Lake City, played hockey at Omaha under floodlights and in Philadelphia before stopping at New York. Some more sightseeing before they took the boat 'Mauritania' which carried them to Southampton.

Like I had mentioned before, no interest was taken from the English hockey authorities to field in their team to play India. Instead, German Hockey Association offered generously to meet all the expenses on the Continent. The Indian team had a hectic schedule and played their matches against Holland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The quality of hockey was much better than the ones played at the Olympics.

While in Prague, the hockey team played a match against a women's team. With Hayman being the umpire, a lot of restrictions were imposed on the Indian team and most notably the Indian team ended up playing left-handed. Dhyan Chand was to excel here as well and a smitten young Czech girl, a hockey enthusiast told him - 'he was an angel' and made many attempts were made by her to kiss him post match. A shy guy that he was refused each time! This incident was also part of the tour report written by Hayman.

From Budapest, the team left for Naples and en route they halted at Vienna, Florence, Rome and finally the team boarded the ship from Naples to Colombo on September 18, 1932.

They played few matches in Colombo before they left for Chennai, then to Mumbai, Delhi and finally to Lahore where they went separate ways on October 16. All these matches were played to repay the expenses of the trip and they still ended up with a deficit of more than 3,000 INR - which was taken care by Hayman.

The team in total played a total of 37 matches in this five-month trip scored 338 goals and conceded just 34 goals. Dhyan Chand alone accounted for 133 goals! It was time for him to go back to this home town, Jhansi where he had series of receptions hosted by his friends and well-wishers.

END NOTE
Hockey was represented poorly at the 1932 Olympics with just three nations taking part. If India would have not done this long journey, would the status of hockey still remained as an Olympic sport or would it have been scrapped by the IOC following a poor turnout?

From Indian point of view, it costed them a lot - but the hockey fraternity internationally benefitted by this tour of India, where they not only saw Indian winning the Olympic gold medal, they also witnessed the demonstration of this skilful sport.

Dhyan Chand was now ranked Naik in the  Indian army and was offered a lucrative civilian job with the railways as Hayman, president of IHF was also a senior member in the railway board. Dhyan Chand was caught in two minds and decided to stick with the army after being assured by the Army General personally that he would be looked after well.


In the next part of the series chronicles the events that Dhyan Chand and the Indian hockey fraternity had to endure in their quest to defend their Olympic title amidst the hoopla of Nazi regime in Berlin.