Dhyan Chand should have been the first sportsperson to get Bharat Ratna
Bengaluru: The send-off that Sachin Tendulkar received was well deserved. No other sportsperson of his generation has paralleled his performance. In what looked like an emotional decision, he was conferred with Bharat Ratna, thus making him the first sportsperson to win the award.
As we were living in the present, the biggest question that arises should we forget our past. While there is no doubt that Tendulkar deserves the Ratna, isn’t it unfair to forget our first ever sporting superstar – Dhyan Chand.
The only mistake that Dhyan Chand did is that he played hockey at a period when it was a religion, whose place has been taken by cricket. May be he was the first sportsperson, who put India on the sporting map and made the world stand up and take notice of India.
Such was the Dhyan Chand’s ability that he was appreciated by none other than Hitler during the Olympics in Germany. For all those who argue in Favour of Tendulkar should remember that Dhyan Chand played at a time when cricket was an elite sport and hockey was the sport of the common man.
Just like Tendulkar, Dhyan Chand has almost every possible record in hockey and some of which stand even 70 years later and retuned with gold medal all three times he played Olympics.
It was the period when India were ruled by the British and despite the presence of many other good players, the hope of the nation rested on him.
Look at some of his anecdotes…
Once, while playing a hockey game, Major Dhyan Chand was not able to score a goal against the opposition team. After several misses, he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post, and amazingly, it was found to not be in conformation with the official width of a goal post under international rules).
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.
Legend has it that the Fuhrer was so impressed by Dhyan Chand's wizardry with the stick that he offered the Indian a chance to move to Germany and the post of Colonel in his army, which the Indian is said to have declined with a smile.
During a match with Germany in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth in a collision with the particularly aggressive Germany goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz. Returning to the field after medical attention, Dhyan Chand reportedly told the players to "teach a lesson" to the Germans by not scoring. The Indians repeatedly took the ball to the German circle only to backpedal.
Cricket world's legend Don Bradman and Hockey's greatest player Dhyan Chand once came face to face at Adelaide in 1935, when the Indian hockey team was in Australia. After watching Dhyan Chand in action, Don Bradman remarked "He scores goals like runs in cricket"
Residents of Vienna, Austria, honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands and four sticks, depicting his control and mastery over the ball.
A tube station has been named after him in London, along with 358 other past and present Olympic heroes, in the run-up to the Games, starting on 27 July 2012. The Transport for London has brought out a special 'Olympic Legends Map', detailing all 361 tube stations. Only six stops have been named after hockey players, with the three Indians - Dhyan Chand, Roop Singh and Leslie Claudius - cornering the majority.
In Holland, the authorities broke his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside.
Dhyan Chand is to hockey what Pele is to football and Don Bradman is to cricket. While Tendulkar might be the fervour of time, it is rather logical that the first sports superstar is conferred with Bharat Ratna.