The Millennium Special

The Past

The Future

Cedric D'Souza

E-Mail this feature to a friend Cedric D'Souza on the all time greats of Indian hockey

Before I venture as to whom are the players that have impressed me most, let me emphasise that the players I have selected are those I have seen and not those I haven't. The time frame from where I have made the selection of this elite 11 has been from the late sixties to date. It is one of the most difficult selections I have ever made, especially when there have been so many great players that India has produced over the years. Then there is the fact that the game has changed so drastically over the last two decades, so what looked good then would not necessarily be relevant today. Needless to say there will be a few players and friends who will be hurt but in all honesty I have chosen these with total impartiality.

Here is my selection of the best 11 players of this century:

Surjit Singh: Position of play -- full back. This burly full back was one of the hardest hitters of the game in the early seventies and was one of the few Indian players that terrorised the opposition. His strengths were his lethal penalty corner strike.

Ajitpal Singh Ajitpal Singh: Position of play -- center half. The gazelle of the midfield had uncanny anticipation, great distribution, and skills that would make any player in any year applaud.

Michael Kindo: Position of play -- full back. For me the greatest tackler in the game. Fleet footed and exceptionally quick in his defensive duties -- be it tackling or anticipation of covering. There used to be a saying that if you could get through Michael Kindo, you had to be really a class player.

Mohammad Shahid Mohammad Shahid: Position of play -- left inner. His dribbling skills was the envy of all opposition in the late seventies, early eighties. It was the common practice of most of the coaches that they kept two players to tie Shahid up, so dangerous was he with the ball.

Ashok Kumar: Position of play -- right inner. Another master of the dribble. Ashok the son of legendary Dhyan Chand, was another exponent of the Indian dribble that topsy-turveyed the world opposition. The speed with which he could change the complexion of the game was something coaches the world over used to have nightmares about.

Balbir Singh: Position of play -- right outer. Speed, thrust, cutting through the opposition at speeds similar to that of a world class sprinter, Balbir was another feared player. He was one of the few players within the Indian team who had the ability to shake of his marker and come good when the team needed him most.

Inam-ur-Rehman: Position of play -- left inner. This tough and highly competitive customer- had the most powerful reverse flick that I have seen. His dribbling skills were second to none and his finish in the circle was the scourge of any goalkeeper -- so powerful was his wallop when entering the D.

Vece Paes Vece Paes: Position of play -- center half. It is unfortunate that India had two center-halves world class calibres at the same time -- Vece and Ajitpal. Vece was another super distributor of the ball and a great motivator, always coaxing his teammates to give off that little more. His biggest forte in my opinion was the manner in which he used intelligence to outsmart the opposition.

V J Phillips: Position of play -- right outer. Another fantastic right winger who could smash through any opposition. He was a nightmare for the left halves the world over and goal keepers cursed when Phillips came to take a penalty stroke. On most occasions he would wrong foot the goal keeper when scoring.

Cedric Pereira: Position of play -- goal keeper. For me he was the best goal keeper I have seen, flashy and could make the most incredible saves from impossible positions. Lightning reflexes, uncanny anticipation, fearless and extremely stylish was his trademarks.

Dhanraj Pillay Dhanraj Pillay: Position of play -- Center forward. His biggest asset is his lightning speed with and without the ball. In contemporary hockey his quick reflexes for tipping in rebounds and the slap hit has caught many a defender on the wrong foot, making him the most marked Indian forward of the nineties.

Not having seen hockey before 1965, my list would probably be an incomplete one if I did not mention the likes of the old time stalwarts that heaped glory for the country time and again between the 1928-1964 Olympics.

Dhyan Chand Dhyan Chand: Inside forward. The master and wizard of hockey. At the 1932 Olympic games Hitler tried to confiscate Dhyan Chand's stick because he felt that there was a magnet attached to it -- such was his hockey artistry that dominated the world.

Roop Singh: Inside forward.

K D Singh Babu: Inside forward.

Shanker Laksman: Goal keeper.

Leo Pinto: Goal keeper.

Leslie Claudius: Half back -- played in four Olympics.

Pritipal Singh: Full back.

Balbir Singh Senior:

P Krishna Moorthy: Half back.

RS Bhola: Left winger.

Tell us what do you think of this list?