At his best, Dhyan Chand had the world queueing up to watch his wizardry with the hockey stick but the politics of Indian sports once forced him to queue up for a ticket to watch the sport he defined, a new book has claimed.
Olympic gold-medallist and former captain Gurbux Singh, in his autobiography titled “My Golden Days”, has shed fresh light on the legend of India’s greatest athlete, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Sports Day.
The anecdotes include Dhyan Chand’s love for fishing and cooking, the hockey politics of 1960s and 70s, and the well-documented decline of Indian hockey.
It was during the 1962 Ahmedabad Internationals, the tussle between National Institute of Sports Patiala and Indian Hockey Federation had come to fore and Dhyan Chand ended up bearing the brunt of it despite being a serving chief coach.
Dhyan Chand was then the chief coach at NIS Patiala and travelled to Ahmedabad with his trainees to watch the tournament, a one-off meet organised by the first Inspector General of Police of Gujarat, JD Nagarvala, the former chairman of selectors.
“He was not given admission card. A person like Dhyan Chand was compelled to stand in queue with his wards at every match to buy tickets. It was sickening,” Gurbux describes in the book.
“He was very fond of fishing,” Gurbux writes remembering an incident when he placed his huge fishing rod at the airport to everyone’s surprise. He would quietly sit in his shorts and cook his catch. He would call his friends and share his cooking,” he fondly remembers.
Describing Dhyan Chand as a complete player, Gurbux writes: “Balbir Singh Sr probably is the greatest scorer that India has ever produced.
KD Singh Babu was probably the greatest distributor and dribbler of the ball. What about Dhyan Chand then?
“Then answer is simple: He was the most complete player. A fine scorer also, maybe not as great as Balbir Sr, but Balbir Sr was no distributor. The greatest, most complete player was Dhyan Chand.”
Remembering his first close interaction with ‘Dada Dhyan Chand’, he writes: “It was in 1955, when I turned out for Freshers’ Club and played regular matches against Punjab Regiment managed by Dhyan Chand.
“I was asked by Dhyan Chand to play for them in Delhi and I appeared for Punjab Regiment against Indian Railways,” the former India captain recalls.
“I could witness the genius of Dhyan Chand in the camp held at Patiala in 1959… His complete mastery of the bully and his half-volley was something that naked eye could not catch the movement,” he writes as he goes on to profile 27 other greats.
The book also has a rare collection of photographs, including of a match between India and England at the backdrop of the iconic Lord’s balcony in a 1967 pre-Olympic meet, which was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II.
The book begins with the Tokyo Olympics 1964 when India reclaimed the
gold medal from Pakistan in what Singh describes as the “second golden era” that went on till the Asian Games triumph in 1968 before the game’s gradual decline.
The recognition for Gurbux, a full-back who led India to the 1966 Asian Games gold, came in 1967 when he was awarded the Arjuna.
“I was given third class fare from Kolkata to Delhi and received the award from Zakir Hussain. There was no money, it was just the award and the certificate. We did not even get a blazer or tie then. I’m not complaining but this was the time when we played,” he says.
“I’m very lucky to see 50 years of hockey from close quarters. First as a player, then a manager, coach and journalist. This is just a sincere effort,” he concludes.
Priced at Rs 1100, the book is published by Sujata Sett, Allsport Foundation.