Dhyan Chand was India’s gift to the world of hockey -- he could
have dribbled the moon out of the night
When a bonny baby was delivered at a hospital in Allahabad on August
29,1905, nobody dreamt that a genius born who would defy the laws of
“The Indian ball seems ignorant of the laws of gravity. One of those
tanned diabolical jugglers stares at the ball intently; it gets
upright and remains suspended in the air,” is how a Dutch journalist
has described his game. He was talking about Dhyan Chand, the hockey
wizard and the greatest centre forward India has ever produced.
Watching Dhayan Chand play was like seeing
the perfect player. He had a sharp intelligence, reflex, speed,
astuteness, native instinct to lead the team from the front and
perfect physical fitness.
He retired as a major from the Indian Army, good for a youth who
began as a humble sepoy. He was selected as a member to the Indian
Army team for the tour of New Zealand in 1926.
As for statistics, there are plenty. It was he who realized India’s
Olympic dream single-handedly, by first bringing home the gold at
the Amsterdam Games in 1928, the Los Angeles Games in 1932 and the
Berlin Games in 1936, where the wizard of hockey scored seven
In 1932, India scored 338 goals in 37 matches, of which 133 were
from the Dhyan Chand’s magic wand.
To Dhyan Chand, the players were his game’s coins, to be used as he
thought fit. It was almost as if he knew the placement without even
looking, while he himself remained unpredictable. He was a
controlled maverick on the field. When he was expected to shoot, he
would pass and when he passed, he expected the player not to miss. A
famous story goes thus:
He put through a ball to K D Singh Babu, then turned his back and
walked away. When Babu asked for an explanation, he was told, “If
you could not get a goal from that you did not deserve to be on my
The magician that he was, his moves frequently resulted in all the
players, including the opponents, falling into a predictable pattern
around him. Legends of his magic are innumerable.
Dhyan Chand’s son once recalled that even in his fifties, his father
would embarrass the goalkeepers at practice sessions by dropping the
ball and driving it into the corner of the net on the half volley
ten times in a row.
Two things will probably encapsulate his greatness than any attempt
at writing. Once an invitation to play in East Africa stipulated a
condition: No Dhyan Chand, no invitation. A statue of the whiz in a
Vienna sports club, it is said, shows a man with four arms and four
It is a pity that he almost died in the general ward of the All
India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he was being
treated for liver cancer. So disillusioned was he that he advised
his sons against taking up hockey as a profession.
It took the pen of a journalist to have him shifted to a special
room before he died in 1979. But his fans would not let him fade
unsung. His funeral was held on the ground to which he gave his all.
India’s acknowledgement of his greatness and her indebtedness to him
was a hockey stadium in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), India named after him.