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The Rediff Special/
The Making of the Legend
August 29, 2003
It was the final of the Punjab Indian Infantry tournament in Jhelum. His side was losing the match by two goals. With only four minutes to go, his commanding officer called out, 'Aage bado jawan, kuch toh karo Dhyan' [Go forward soldier! Do something about it Dhyan!]" Dhyan Chand did something about it. He scored three goals in four minutes to lead his team to victory.
-- Major General A A Rudra in the foreword of Dhyan Chand's biography Goals!
The greatest tribute was paid by Adolf Hitler who watched as India decimated Germany 8-1 in the Berlin Olympics. When Dhyan Chand told the German dictator he was a sepoy in the Indian army, Hitler replied: 'If you were a German, I would have made you at least a major general.' In the event, Dhyan Chand retired as a major.
During the 1936 Olympic hockey final, the Germans decided to play rough after six goals had been scored against them. Going for Dhyan, the German goalkeeper knocked out one of his teeth.
Returning after receiving first aid, Dhyan 'instructed us not to score any more goals. "We must teach them a lesson in ball control," he said.
So we repeatedly took the ball up to the German circle and then back-passed to dumbfound our opponents. We ended up beating Germany 8-1, with Dhyan scoring 6 times.'
-- Colonel Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara in World Hockey Magazine (March-May 1970)
In 1932, India scored 338 goals in 37 matches, 133 being Dhyan Chand's contribution. In 1947, he accompanied a young team to East Africa. Then 42 and semi-retired, he ended up the second highest scorer with 61 goals in 22 games.
'Dhyan Chand treated everybody as pieces on a board meant for his use. He'd know from his own movement how the defense was forming, and where the gaps were. In other words, he was the only imponderable, everybody else (opposition included) fell in predictable patterns around him.'
-- Dhyan Chand's team-mate Keshav Dutt
The UP team was leading by three goals to one, and there was only a minute left for play. Hopeless as the situation looked, Punjab never gave up trying, and scored a goal to reduce the arrears to one. The spectators applauded the goal, but only half-heartedly, as if paying tribute to a plucky side who they thought were fighting in vain. Indeed, there did not seem to be time for another goal. But Feroze Khan, the Punjab centre-forward, shot away for the UP goal straight from the bully-off, went through the opposing defence and had the ball in the net before anyone quite realized what was happening.
The outstanding forward on the field was Dhyan Chand, the UP centre-forward, who is likely to be chosen for the Indian team that is to visit England and play in the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Dhyan Chand, in addition to his brilliant stickwork, was the main spring of his side's attack. The opposing centre-half, Eric Pinniger, was unable to hold Dhyan Chand in check, though he was very efficient when tackling the other attackers.
The crowd had been waiting for Dhyan Chand to get going, and presently they were rewarded. There came the period when Dhyan Chand demonstrated that as a centre-forward he has few equals. His dribbling was of the irresistible variety. He seemed to be able to pass opponent after opponent at will.'
- The Statesman, before the 1928 Olympics
After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand's magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field.
A German newspaper carried a banner headline: 'The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.' The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: 'Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action.'
After every India match, hundreds of spectators would troop down to the players enclosure and touch Dhyan Chand's hockey stick to see what trick it was that kept the ball from leaving his stick as he dribbled his way all over the field. One journalist reported: 'It looks like he has some invisible magnet stuck to his hockey stick so that the ball does not leave it at all.'
Dhyan Chand was the unanimous choice to lead India on a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1935. India played 48 matches -- including three Tests against New Zealand -- and won all of them. Of the 584 goals the visitors scored, Dhyan Chand's personal tally was 200. Don Bradman was so surprised by the number of goals that he quipped: 'Were they made by a hockey player or a batsman?'
On the 1947 East African tour, he put through a wondrous ball to future legend, K D Singh 'Babu,' then turned his back and walked away. When Babu later asked the reason for this odd behaviour, he was told: 'If you could not get a goal from that, you did not deserve to be on my team.'
Dhyan Chand: A Tribute