In a recent turn of events, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award was renamed after the great Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award will now be known as Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the exceptional performance of women and men around the renaming. Renaming the award after Major Dhyan Chand has set off a political war with congress.
Be it a political motive or an honest decision that came way too late, stellar performances by Indian hockey teams at the Tokyo Olympics have rekindled the pride and interest in hockey in India. Hockey is the national sport of India, but recently cricket had everyone hooked to it. The Indian cricket team is one of the strongest cricket teams in the world, undoubtedly. The men’s hockey team won a bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics, and the women’s hockey team finished fourth.
This unbelievable feat, hard work, and sweat of the Indian hockey team have ensured attention, funds, infrastructure, career, and a secured future for hockey in the country. It was after 41 years that the country saw a medal in hockey at one of the most prestigious event of sport in the world. India won the bronze medal match against Germany by 5–4, teeth clenching and nail-biting match. Germany acquires top three positions when it comes to international ranking in hockey.
The medal and fourth position has ensured that little boys and girls who dream of becoming hockey players won’t be overshadowed by the limelight of cricket, lack of funds, and infrastructure. When a team or individual wins medals at Olympics, it creates a revolution for every sport in the country. Apart from igniting interest, it ensures employment, infrastructure, and funding and nurtures junior medallists.
It creates a wildfire that consumes the entire nation to break world records, highlights the country on the world platform, and gives the world top players like Sachin Tendulkar, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Major Dhyan Chand, and Rani Rampal, Ravi Dhuniya, Mira Bai Chanu, Manpreet Singh, MC Mary Kom, etc. Naming the Khel Ratna after Dhyan Chand was just another feather in the cap.
Along with political motives naming the Khel Ratna award after Major Dhyan Chand evokes emotions and maybe a few tears (does too, even as I write this). Because Major Dhyan Chand meant a lot for Indian hockey and Indian sports in general, he was the self-respect and pride of Indians against former colonisers. He invoked dignity when the Indian team defeated Europeans in their own game. Slavery does that to you.
Let’s sneak a peek in the life of Major Dhyan Chand –
The Indian hockey superstar and international wizard for hockey was born on 29 August 1905 in Allahabad, United provinces of Agra, and Oudh, British India. After a mind-blowing performance against New Zealand in a field hockey match, Dhyan Chand rose to fame. He was the reason why India won three hockey gold medals in three consecutive Olympic games. Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and Berlin in 1936.
Few newspapers deemed him as a magician of hockey. Whenever Dhyan Chand played, the entire stadium was awestruck with his remarkable skills, intricate dribbling, and aggressive scoring abilities. Many people have reportedly said that it feels like the ball magically latches itself to his hockey stick like it’s some kind of magnet.
Many times referees had to come in to check the stick for malpractices because even they couldn’t believe their eyes. His stick was broken in half to check the stick for a magnet during matches! During those times, whoever competed against Dhyan Chand always encountered defeat. The team led by Dhyan Chand defeated their opponents by huge margins.
In all, Dhyan Chand played 12 Olympic games where he scored 33 goals. His scoring abilities were a nightmare for opposing teams because the Netherlands lost to 3-0, the United States lost to 24–1 (unbelievable!), and Germany lost to 8–1.
What are the tales and anecdotes related to Dhyan Chand?
People say that few anecdotes are true and others fictitious and made up, but given his stellar track record, they can be true! His hockey stick was frequently broken in half to check for magnets because, in the past, the game was played on natural grass. Natural grass has bumps and an uneven floor, which makes it impossible for a player to control the ball the way Dhyan Chand did. In present times players use astroturf which is even and smooth. A wizard indeed!
The German chancellor and dictator Adolf Hitler was a huge fan of Dhyan Chand. He always visited the match when Dhyan Chand was playing. The Bollywood movie Gold starring Akshay Kumar, had the iconic movement from the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Dhyan Chand refused to salute Hitler. The film has beautifully portrayed the self-respect, dignity, pride, and joy of winning a gold medal in hockey. Adolf Hitler was mesmerized by Dhyanchand’s hockey skills that he offered him German citizenship and a colonel post in the German army. But the Indian wizard kindly refused the offer.
Why Dhyan Chand evokes self-respect and pride?
We all know how brutal colonisers the British were. Apart from strategically destroying Indian handicrafts, industries, agriculture, trade, businesses, the market, they hurt Indian pride. Indians were subjugated under British rule and made to feel inferior and stupid. The Indians were repeatedly made to feel that they are uncivilized barbarians. The British hurt India economically, financially, and psychologically.
Hence any chance where the European colonizers were shown that Indians are not inferior and barbarians evoked the above emotions. Apart from hockey, India’s KD Jadhav won wrestling bronze at Helsinki Olympics in 1952. After a long wait, Leander Paes won another Olympic medal in tennis in 1996 Atlanta. It is after 41 years at Tokyo Olympics 2020 that the same pride was bought home. But this time, apart from hockey, the Indian sportspersons showcased brilliant achievements in badminton, golf, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, fencing, relay, etc.
There has been a long-running campaign to award Dhyan Chand with Bharat Ratna Award posthumously. Prime Minister Modi, in his announcement, also said that he was getting suggestions from all over the country to rechristen the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award as the Dhyan Chand award. When Sachin Tendulkar was awarded Bharat Ratna in 2013, the debate about granting Dhyan Chand with the same spark again.
How is Dhyan Chand recognized in India?
Dhyan Chand‘s birthday is celebrated as national sports Day on 29th August, and the President gives away Arjuna awards and other honors. A recognition that confers lifetime achievement in sports is named after Major Dhyan Chand. National Capital Region’s National Stadium is renamed Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. Eight gold medals in hockey are a milestone achievement for generations of players.
After Dhyan Chand’s era, Europeans and Australians have scored the top seats for decades in field hockey. The astroturf requires fitness, stamina, physical endurance, and speed. After the boycott in the 1980 Moscow games, the players felt out of touch with glory. A sentiment among Indians developed that the golden years will never come back, and we can only read about them in books and newspapers. Among such circumstances, the Indian men’s hockey team won the bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics, and the women’s hockey team finished fourth.
It has not only reignited the passion for hockey but has also made a statement to the global community. The statement says that Indian hockey is back in action and will grab every gold medal in the field hockey arena. The statement also says that the Europeans and Australians have to keep a close watch on their top position because soon it will be recaptured by Indians.
It’s time the golden era comes home!