Five greatest Indian hockey players
Hockey is the national sport of India. Even though that is the case, the interest in the game has waned gradually, with the phenomenal rise of cricket. Still having not lost its popularity entirely, hockey unites the nation as a whole. We take a look at the five best Indian hockey players of all time.
5. Udham Singh
One of India’s premier players to have wielded the stick, Udham Singh never let his diminutive stature affect his playing style, and is the joint-most successful Indian Olympian with an envious tally of 3 golds (1952 Helsinki, 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo) and one silver (1960 Rome). A finger injury was what stood between him and the record of being the only Indian to have represented the nation at five consecutive Olympic Games. After retiring, Udham Singh took charge of the Indian team as manager and won them the silver medal at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. He was conferred with the Arjuna Award.
4. Leslie Claudius
Hailing from Chhattisgarh, Leslie Claudius shares the record with Udham Singh for having the most Olympic medals for the nation. He is regarded as the best half-back to have played the sport, and being the first India to play in four consecutive Olympics and capped 100 times, he managed the Indian team at the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok, where India lost in the final to archrivals Pakistan. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1971.
3. Balbir Singh Sr.
Being the only player in hockey history to score five goals in an Olympic match, the former captain of India was the second countryman to win three Olympic gold medals. He has featured in the Top 16 Most Iconic Olympians of All Time as the only hockey player and Indian, and post retirement, he took upon the mantle of the Indian coach and guided the nation to a victory in the 1975 World Cup. He was the first sportsman recipient of the Padma Shri honour.
2. Dhanraj Pillay
Boasting of mesmerizing stickwork and brilliant dribbling, Dhanraj Pillay was the former captain of the Indian side. He is the only player to have represented India in 4 Olympic Games, 4 World Cups, 4 Asian Games and 4 Champions Trophies, and it was under his leadership that the nation won the 1998 Asian Games and the 2003 Asian Cup. Probably the most talented hockey player to not have won an Olympic medal, owing to India’s decline, he scored 170 goals in 339 appearances. He was honoured with the Padma Shri, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award.
1. Dhyan Chand
Definitely the greatest player to have played hockey, Dhyan Chand was known as the ‘Wizard’ for his magical ball control. Major Dhyan Chand has won three Olympic golds for India at Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932 and Berlin in 1936. With over 400 goals in his illustrious career, he is the highest goalscorer in history. Don Bradman once famously remarked that Dhyan Chand scores goals like runs in cricket. India celebrates National Sports Day on his birthday. Hitler even went on to offer him citizenship which the Army Major refused. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan.