C is for Dhyan (C)hand – The Wizard of the Hockey field – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019

C is for Dhyan (C)hand – The Wizard of the Hockey field – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia.org
Yesterday I brought to you the story of Bjorn Borg of tennis fame. Today I will shift to India’s national sport Hockey and bring you the story of none other than India’s pride, the man who was known as The Wizard or The Magician of the Hockey field, Major Dhyan Chand. Dhyan Chand was born in a Rajput family to Sharadha Singh and Sameshwar Singh on 29th August 1905. He had two brothers Mool Singh and Roop Singh. Roop Singh was also a Hockey player.
Sameshwar Singh was employed in the British Indian Army and the family had to move from one army post to another due to his numerous transfers. This meant that Chand had to terminate his education after six years of schooling. Sameshwar Singh used to play Hockey in the army. Finally, Chand and his family settled in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh and he graduated from Victoria college in 1932. 
As a young man, Chand was not inclined seriously towards sports though he was fond of wrestling and did indulge in casual games with his friends. You might be wondering why Dhyan Chand’s name is not Dhyan Singh and why the Singh got replaced with Chand? There is an interesting anecdote about this.
Dhyan Singh had to practice a lot in the night as he had to mostly work during the day. He would wait for the Moon to come out in the nights and then practice Hockey in the fields in the moonlight. The reason for this was that there were no floodlights those days. As a result, his eyesight became very sharp. His friends began calling him Chand which means Moon in Hindi and that was how he became popularly known as Dhyan Chand.
On his 17th birthday, Dhyan Chand enlisted as a sepoy in the British Indian Army. Chand played several Hockey tournaments between 1922 and 1926 in the army. Chand was selected for the Indian Army team that toured NewZealand and the team returned victorious in that tour. The Army team won eighteen matches, drew two and lost one. Chand was promoted to Lance Naik in 1927.
An Inter-Provincial match was held in 1925 to select a team for the 1928 summer Olympics to be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Chand played as a member of the United Provinces team in the selection and was noticed widely for his excellent stick work and strategic passing. In the 1928 Olympic team Chand was selected as the centre-forward.
The Indian team was placed in division A with Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland. In the very first match, India defeated Austria 6-0. Chand had scored three of the goals. Next came Belgium and India won 9-0 but Chand scored only one goal. Finally, after a string of victories, on 26 May 1928, India faced the hosts, Netherlands, in the finals. Many Indian players were sick and Chand himself was feeling unwell.  But even with a side that was vastly depleted of players, India managed to defeat Netherlands 3-0 with Chand scoring two of the goals. A newspaper report came out with the headlines,
‘This is not a game of Hockey, but magic. Dyan Chand is, in fact, the magician of Hockey’ 
When the Indian team had left for the Olympics they were given a quiet send-off. But when they returned victoriously they were greeted by a jubilant crowd of thousands at the Bombay harbour. In 1933 Chand’s home team, the Jhansi Heroes participated in and won the Beighton Cup. Chand considered the Beighton Cup the most prestigious of all Indian tournaments.
In his own words,
‘If anybody asked me which was the best match that I played in, I will unhesitatingly say that it was the 1933 Beighton Cup final between Calcutta Customs and Jhansi Heroes. Calcutta Customs was a great side those days; they had Shaukat Ali, Asad Ali, Claude Deefholts, Seaman, Mohsin, and many others who were then in the first flight of Indian hockey.
I had a very young side. Besides my brother Roop Singh, and Ismail, who played for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway in Mumbai, I had no other really great player in the team. But I had a team which was determined to do or die. It was a great match, full of thrills, and it was just opportunism that gave us the victory. Customs were pressing hard and our goal was at their mercy. Suddenly I broke through and from midfield gave a long through pass to Ismail, who ran with Jesse Owens’ speed half the length of the ground. A misunderstanding occurred between the Customs left-half and the goalkeeper, and Ismail, taking every advantage of it, cut through and netted the only goal of the match. We felt very proud of our triumph.’
In 1934 the Indian Hockey Federation decided to conduct the Inter-Provincial cup to select the players for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Chand was appointed the captain of the team that was to go to Germany. The team reached Berlin on 13th July and on the 17th they lost a practice match to Germany 4-1. The Olympic matches began soon and the Indians hit a winning streak.
They won the first match against Hungary (4-0) and proceeded to dominate all the group matches. They defeated USA (7-0 with Chand scoring two goals), and then they defeated Japan next. Then came the big final between Germany and India on 19th August 1936. The Indians were very nervous as they had lost the practice match against Germany 4-1.
In the locker room, Pankaj Gupta produced the Congress Tricolour and the Indians saluted the flag, prayed and marched to the field. Till the first interval, the Indians could score only one goal, but after the interval, the Indian team launched an all-out attack and defeated Germany 8-1. Chand top-scored with three goals. 
This is what Chand had to say about the final match with Germany,
‘Every member of the team was feeling the strain of the defeat to the Germans in the practice match, and no one was in his usual self. I never saw a hockey team from India, where the game is definitely of a superior standard compared to the rest of the world, being so obsessed on the eve of the match. The players were nervous as to what the result of the match would be, which was heightened by the feeling that the burden of the country’s honour was on their shoulders.’
When Germany was defeated, Adolf Hitler the German Chancellor was so annoyed that he left the stadium in frustration. But he later came back to present the medals. There is some belief that on the following day Hitler invited Chand to come and meet him. Chand was naturally worried as he had heard several tales of the German regime’s racist policies of those days. 
When the two met, it is believed that Hitler asked him what he did for a living and on hearing that he worked in the British Indian Army, he offered Chand a lucrative position in the German army and asked him to relocate. Chand is believed to have politely turned down this offer and explained to the Fuehrer that he was born and brought up in India and was happy there. Hitler is said to have appreciated Chand’s position. The truthfulness of this tale cannot be verified but it seems true to the extent I could find out from the internet. 
After the war, Chand went on tours to East Africa and afterwards, he slowly withdrew from playing Hockey tournaments. Chand retired from the Indian army after thirty-four years of service as a Major in 1956.  The Government of India has conferred on him the Padma Bhushan the third highest civilian honour. 
After retirement Chand taught in several coaching camps. He held the post of Chief Hockey Coach in the National Institute of Sports, Patiala for several years. He died on 3 December 1979  at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and was cremated in the Jhansi Heroes ground in his hometown. 
Dhyan Chand is a legend in Indian Hockey. His skill at dribbling with the ball was simply fantastic. He had scored 400 goals in his career from 1926 to 1948. His birthday, 29th August is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. He was also awarded the 20th National Award 2012, the Gem of Day. This award was received by his son Ashok Chand on behalf of his deceased father.
The National Stadium at Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium in his honour.  A commemorative postage stamp was issued in his honour by the Government of India. He remains the only sportsperson with a postage stamp in his honour.  He was nominated for the Bharat Ratna in 2014 and there was plenty of support for it. But the awards went to Sachin Tendulkar and C.N.R Rao.
Dhyan Chand’s family was disappointed and an RTI enquiry seems to suggest that his nomination was ignored by the Prime Minister’s office. There is some controversy about this but things are not very clear. I hope you enjoyed reading about this talented and brilliant Hockey player who took the Indian Hockey team to the heights of glory.
Tags – #AtoZChallenge 2019 #BlogchatterAto Z 2019

32 thoughts on “C is for Dhyan (C)hand – The Wizard of the Hockey field – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019”

  1. This was such a delightful read. I remember knowing about Dhyanchand only from G. K. books but today we have a movie being made on this legend. At the end of this series, you must convert this to an ebook.

  2. Thanks Sonia. I am planning to make an eBook out of it. Only problem is the image rights. I am not sure if I can use Wikipedia images in Amazon eBooks.

  3. I read a lot about Dhyanchand and also visited the stadiums in Munich and Amsterdam where he played. I remember vaguely somewhere there was an article about his interactions with Hitler and me storing it. Not sure, where it is right now.

  4. I did not know about the name either. I found out about it only when I started researching about him for the post. Yes he was a rare gem.

  5. I remember studying about Dhyan Chand in school. But facts like his name being changed to Chand, the number of his goals and his birthday being marked as the national sports day were new to me. great post!

  6. Yes, he had to struggle to practice when the Moon was shining as those days there were no lights. Must have been a real struggle isn't it? A very determined person. Thanks for visiting.

  7. Thanks for visiting. I am a fan of Mayuri's writing. And I am happy you enjoyed my post on Dhyan Chand. There are more to come. Do keep visiting. I will visit your blog regularly. Creating useful and appropriate content is important to me and I am sure your posts will give me several pointers.

  8. This post reminds me of my father who was a fan of this legendary player. And you are right, he was a magician on the ground. Very well researched post, Jai.

  9. You are right. Cricket is a religion in our country and every other sport gets neglected. This is the reason why India has been performing dismally in the Olympic arena. But in recent years things seem to be improving.

  10. He was a phenomenon in his days. Of course it has been a long time and he is no more but his legacy lives on and India remembers him for putting the country on the Olympic center stage.

  11. I believe that the best part in reading about the life of a sportsperson, or any achiever, is how they started their life and finally became famous. I didn't know the story behind his name or the possibility that the Fuhrer was so impressed by him. Thanks for this insight into Dhyan Chand's life, Jai. He truly is a gem of India.

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