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Feature: Hockey's Genius - Dhyan Chand There are 19 comments on this articlex19
Dhyan Chand
Dhyan Chand
June 25, 2002 4.5 out of 5
Times of Hockey
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They say you can judge a man's legend by the quality of myths that surround him. By that measure itself, Dhyan Chand was an extraordinary man. To hear tales of his craftsmanship was to wonder whether his stick was designed by Merlin himself.

They broke his stick in Holland to check if there was a magnet
inside; in Japan they decided it was glue; in Germany, Adolf Hitler even wanted to buy it.

It sounds all silliness and hocus-pocus and maybe it was. But, one thing strikes you - they never said this about anybody else, did they? Whenever a tale journeys through time, exaggeration inadvertently rides along. Yet however inventive the teller gets, there is a point, he knows, beyond which belief is suspended. A magnet in the stick? If they said this about Mohammed Shahid we would
have guffawed; for Dhyan Chand it just fits. There's another thing
here. Modern players use advertising to give their deeds and personalities greater flourish; they do not allow us to forget them either, for television, the accumulated memory of our times, is their evidence.

Dhyan Chand had nothing, no reams of literature to record his
brilliance, no highlight film for us to gasp at. How come then this
reverence has come to rest?

And so we return again to the stories, the building blocks of his
legend. We are told that a statue of him exists in a Vienna sports club, whose form speaks of a certain awe; it is of a man with four arms and four sticks. We are instructed that at penalty corners he would stop the ball with his own hand, then rise and strike it with a smooth swiftness (normally it takes two men).

We are informed by his son Ashok Kumar, that in his 50s he would shame Indian goalkeepers in practice by dropping the ball and then on the half volley drive into the corner of the net. Not once but ten times out of ten. We are advised that his stickwork was studied but
was so fast that even slow film offered no clues to his magic. You had to wonder, as someone wrote, did the poets come to watch him, and the playwrights, for he was drama. And, of course, he was not just
beautiful, he won.

We see that not just in three Olympic golds (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los
Angeles, 1936 Berlin) but in his goals. Two statistics stand out. In 1932 India scored 338 goals in 37 matches, 133 his contribution. In 1947 he accompanied a young team to East Africa (No Dhyan Chand, no
team said the invitation)and he, 42 and semi-retired, was the second highest scorer with 61 goals in 22 games.

Still, it would seem on first impression that this was a man born with blessed hands, a flamboyant soloist (his mentor Bale Tiwari would scold him for dribbling), not a honest member of the orchestra.

It is where, Keshav Dutt, Olympic gold Medallist, tells us, we
mistake him. "His real talent lay above his shoulders. His was easily the hockey brain of the century. He could see a field the way a chess player sees the board. He knew where his teammates were, and more
importantly where his opponents were - without looking. It was almost psychic."

Remember Maradona in the 1986 World Cup final, swivelling blind to send the ball 30 yards or so for Buruchaga to score the winning goal.

To not see but to know, to fugure the geometry of a field with a blindfold on, here is an idea of a player's completeness.

In team games you can tell genius by the man who arranges the grand design of the play. Dutt saw this too in Dhyan Chand. "He 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, everbody else (opposition included) fell in predictable patterns around him."

So, of course, when everbody else thought he was going to shoot, he passed. Not because he was unselfish (and he was), but to induce surprise. And when he passed to you, you did not want to miss. On that 1947 tour, he put through a wondorous ball to KD 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."

What these stories are telling us is this: there are good players,
great ones, and then those who come close to perfection's embrace.

They are not practitioners of a sporting craft, they become its
definition; they are not heroes, they are the caliper by which other men's heroism is measured. Pele, Jack Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali, Don Bradman come fastest to mind, and Dhyan Chand has a seat reserved too at this table. (Here's a sweet tale on the side. In 1935, Bradman and Dhyan Chand met in Australia, and it is a measure of this man's
innocence that he writes, "The picture of that meeting I will cherish all my life." Did Bradman know who he had met?) To say he was an icon is correct, but only a context can provide a precise measure of such
status. Gurbux Singh, 1964 Olympian, provides it when he says,"When I grew up, to achieve anything in sport was to do it in hockey." As the
century turned into its last quarter, it held pre-eminence, lifted by India's first Olympic gold in 1928 and kept there till the `70s by a conveyor belt, so terribly rusted now, that rolled out champions like fast food. It is said Dhyan Chand's greatness was elevated by the illustrious company he kept on the field; conversely, how fine he must have been to stand so taller than them all. There is a beauty to hear the grey-bearded Gurbux Singh, breathless, talking about how even in 1959, way past his best, no man at the Indian camp could win the ball in a bully-off with him.

It makes it sadder still that even this man as he turned grey should tell his sons not to play hockey, for it gave him so little in return. He coached for a while, then settled in his beloved Jhansi, still the fisherman, the hunter of deer, who loved to cook - but short of money. "Once he went to a tournament in Ahmedabad and they turned him away not knowing who he was," says Ashok. "And he never saw any comfort."

When he fell ill, liver cancer it turned out, and came to Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, they dumped him in the general ward. A journalist's article eventually got him moved to a special room, but that public memory had to be jogged tells its own story.

In Jhansi they had a fueral, not in the ghat, but on the ground he played on. Players came, but it seemed a little too late. It made him hard to forget the first few words of his autobiography `Goal': "You are doubtless aware that I am a common man." He wasn't but he died like one.
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Comments on this article
06-25-2002  10:47 am
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Let us divide hockey into two eras based on the playing surface. Dhyan Chand was the greatest player ever on natural grass (old era). The modern era of hockey started with the use of astro-turf. The greatest player in the modern era (astro-turf) so far is Shahbaz Ahmed. There may be other claimants to the throne such as Hassan Sardar, Manzoor, Jr., Mohammed Shahid, Richard Charlesworth, Dhanraj Pillay, et al. but Shahbaz is the greatest on astro-turf.
One wonders what Pakistan might have done with Shahbaz Ahmed and Hassan Sardar playing together at their peak. They would have remained world champions for more than a decade (rather than from 1978-1984).

07-01-2002  5:43 pm
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Dhyan Chand
With that Logic,Don Bradman was the greatest cricketer not now.Since rules were different etc...We can probably debate whether Viv Richards,Gary Sobers,Sunil Gavaskar,Sachin tendulkar,Steve Waugh is presently the best cricketer.
07-01-2002  11:56 pm
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YO YO!!!
NO talk of cricket here..this place is for cricket-bashing.
08-17-2002  12:02 am
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Great players of different eras
The game may change, but the greatness of players doesn't. I suspect that, had Dhyan Chand been a "modern" player then he would have adapted his playing style to whatever surface he was on. I'm sure that Shabaz... and I KNOW that Charlesworth played ther first games on grass - not synthetic turfs. Synthetic fileds make it easier for EVERY player to pick up new skills... including (if not especially) champions like Chand.

There's no argument. Shabaz was great... but get real Alvin!
09-08-2002  10:06 pm
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shahbaz really was a magician !
the greatest player I've ever witnessed.
I don't know about this dyan Chand guy
But really it's true
astro trough is a completely differant game
10-10-2002  5:09 pm
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dhyan chad
in cricket dominated indian hearts can never never listen the cry of THE GREAT DHYAN CHAD soul.He was true patriot. when ever his name comes it stands equal to any freedom fighter.
01-07-2004  2:46 am
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Dhyan Chand = "Focussed Moon" who dawned on the field of World Hockey and still rules it for all purists of hockey. He can never be paralleled for his greatness in hockey or as a person, comes from an era of immortals and not the present day mortals busy in making money by jumping clubs or endorsing for ads. His wizardry or records are true and for real and not some legend woven with the threads of rumours. Those who are lucky can see his game in those very rare video clippings and can swear by his greatness. The earthlings can be bestowed with such great players once a millennium. Indians are blessed that he was one of us.
Afzal Siddiqui
07-06-2004  8:28 am
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Game is game, wheter it is astro turf or natural grass. Dhyan chand was great player. Year after year people come and play Hockey but Dyan chand will remain Icon. he has no match so far. If you want to divide hockey era then divide it Hokey with Dhyan chand and after Dhyan Chand, this division will natural and respectful.

As far as hockey after Dhyan Chand is talked do not forget Samiullah my firend.
11-23-2004  1:23 pm
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dyan chand
Where can i get a video clip of Dyan Chand?
vidyadhar dawane
02-08-2005  11:44 pm
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It's true ! DHYAN CHAND was a great player. But he was born in wrong time and in wrong country. Even in America Jessy Owen form the same 1936 Berlin Olympic had to run with dogs to fulfill his daily needs. He is Bradman or Pale of Hockey. It has no sense saying he did not play on Astro-turf so he could not be considered as Great among all. Whatever he had done is enough to make him King. He once responded his caoch by scoring three goals in just two minutes to help his team winning the game when they were two goals behind.(I had a lesson about him in schooldays where I got this info) Its enough to say about him. As Ranji was ' Prince of a small state but King of a Great Game', DHYAN CHAND was 'Small Sepoy of a Great Indian Army, but King of a Glorious Game'.
03-31-2005  10:56 am
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Dhyan Chand
Hi...Dhyan Chand was truly a man of honour.I wish if anyone could gimme some info bout dhyan chand's personal life plzzz.I have searched the net for ages but have failed to find any such info.
u cud mail me at nasreenraees1@yahoo.com
Tushar Arun Dahake
04-06-2005  1:36 pm
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Lets try to make know the world who the great dhaynchand was. start collecting information about him. old newspapers may come handy. put website on him.
Vijaya Ghose
07-09-2005  8:10 am
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How quickly we forget!
I was very moved by the piece. Why is it that the great K.P.S. Gill who plays dirty politics with the game doesn't remember that July 29 is Dhyan Chand's birthday? He and the Hockey federaion are too busy shunting out good players like Dhanraj Pillay. The rot within the system seems to have rotted people's minds and souls too.
Vijaya Ghose
08-02-2005  12:07 am
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it is very so nice to read this report .please send this type of reports of sachin to my mail.my mail is rahul4u14343@yahoomail.com
08-17-2005  12:14 pm
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dyan chand is definately a magician in the hockey field.
abhay mishra
08-27-2005  10:01 am
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dhayanchand we can not forgate you.
08-28-2005  12:52 am
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The magician
Read about Dyan Chand's anniversary on the 29th August. Searched the net and suprisingly, theres no website yet on the great man ! This is really pathetic. I would urge anyone reading this article to try and start a website if possible, that could catalog al of he magician's achievements! We would all be grateful.

I see no reason for any controversy on who the greatest ever was. The same came up on Pele vs. Maradona. Even starting a controversy is like disrespecting the hard work and achievements of BOTH the players. Everyone is unique and every great man has his own niche...

Peace to the magician's soul !!
08-29-2005  9:12 am
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i agree.comparison in such cases doesn't lead to much. it ends up as an exercise for it's own sake.what is pitiable is the paucity of any information on dhyan chand.a website dedicated to the legendary hockey player would be a wonderful thing.one feels rather amazed by the lack of it.
how should one go about it?let us start thinking!write back.
Junaid Memon
09-04-2005  11:37 pm
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Feature Film on Dhyan Chand's life
Hello Friends,

This is Junaid Memon from Nomad Films Bombay, i am an up-coming film maker and planing to make a film on Dhyan Chand's life, it will be called THE UNBROKEN RECORD, seeking help from people who have any kind of personal information about him, may be they know some one who has played with Dhyan Chand and still alive, any friend of him, any student of him, or people who has known him perosnally apart from their own family, if i can get information on any of this kind of people will help me a lot to finish my research. apart from the information available on net if any body would like share some nice movment of his life, will help me better to concive a charector. please email me on junaid@nomadfilmsindia.com thanks.
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