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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Keshav Datt, 1948 and 1952 Olympic star, passes away

Keshav Datt was a member of the Indian hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: July 7, 2021 6:59:09 pm
Keshav DattBorn in Lahore in 1925, Datt did his education and sports at the Government College, in the western Punjab city. (Twitter)

One of India’s finest hockey players, a double Olympic gold medallist, Keshav Datt passed away in the early hours on Wednesday. Datt, 95, is survived by two sons and a daughter.

As per his attendant Dolly Bairahi, who had confirmed the news of his death, his demise was caused due to age-related ailments, as the former hockey star had not been in the best of health for some time.

Born in Lahore in 1925, Datt pursued his academics and sports at the Government College in the western Punjab city. He was mentored by the legendary Dhyanchand and progressed rapidly, playing alongside KD Singh Babu. Datt came into the limelight while representing Punjab in the National Championship in pre-Partition India. After independence, he moved to Bombay and later to Calcutta in 1950, representing Bombay and Bengal at the National Championships.

Datt was a member of the Indian hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics. Four years later, he was the vice-captain of the Indian team at the Helsinki Games that bagged another gold medal. For the 1956 Melbourne Olympics though, he opted to skip the event as he wasn’t granted leave by his employer Brooke Bond.

“When I was growing up in hockey, Keshav, Balbir (Singh Sr), (Leslie) Claudius and (Randhir Singh) Gentle were heroes for us. He was a great educator,” hockey Olympian and former India captain Gurbux Singh told The Indian Express.

“In 1956-57, when I landed in Calcutta, I saw Keshav playing for Mohun Bagan. He was a great centre-half and a thorough gentleman. I played a few matches against him and he was my selector also. Hockey was played on grass in those days and it was a lot more difficult to control the ball and distribute it on that surface. Now on Astro Turf, it’s much easier. Yes, physically it’s more strenuous now but on grass, it was a different ball game,” Singh added. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled Datt’s death. Tennis star and 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Leander Paes posted a heartfelt condolence message on Twitter.

As a hockey player, Calcutta Port Commissioners was Datt’s first port of call. Famous Bengali film actor Jahar Ganguly, then hockey secretary of Mohun Bagan, took him to the green-and-maroons. At Mohun Bagan, Datt won the Calcutta League six times and the Beighton Cup thrice. He was widely regarded as one of the finest half-backs in Indian hockey.

Mohun Bagan conferred him with the Mohun Bagan Ratna in 2019.

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