Sportco's Olympic Legends: Major Dhyan Chand: The Wizard of Indian Hockey

Major Dhyan Chand is one of the most decorated Indian hockey players to embrace the game. He led India to glory days in field hockey at the Olympics. During his era, the Indian Hockey team was the juggernaut of the hockey sport and won many trophies. 

“It is not my country’s duty to push me ahead. It is my duty to push my country ahead.” - Dhyan Chand

Major Dhyan Chand: Growing up years 

Born in Allahabad on 29 August 1905 in a Rajput family, Dhyan Chand’s father was recruited in British Indian Army, where he represented them in Field Hockey. Major Dhyan Chand had two siblings, Mool Singh and Roop Singh. Roop Singh was the elder brother and a hockey player as well. 

Dhyan Chand’s father had frequent army transfers their family had to move from one place to another. This impacted Dhyan Chand’s education and had to drop from his education after only six years of schooling. Despite he completed his education at Victoria College Gwalior

As the entire family was part of the army, on 29 August 1922 Dhyan Chand enrolled in 1st Brahmans of British Army as a Sepoy. A year after the reorganization of the army materialized leading to a new regiment “Punjab Regiment”. 

In the Punjab Regiment, Dhyan Chand was selected impulsively for the Hockey team. During 1922 and 1926 he played hockey tournaments and regiment games. 

His performance was acknowledged by many spectators and hence, Dhyan Chand was selected for British Army

The Army toured New Zealand where they won 18 games. The team returned to India, and Chand was promoted to a higher post, Lance Naik in 1927. 

An era of domination at the Olympics 

After establishing himself as one of the prominent players of the hockey team, a newly formed Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), was formed to build a robust squad for the field hockey event inducted in Olympics. The IHF wanted to select a strong squad for the 1928 Olympics

An Inter-Provincial Tournament was hosted to select elite players for the Olympics. Five teams participated in the tournament. 

United Provinces, Bengal, Punjab, Rajputana, and Central Provinces. Dhyan Chand was the prime focus in the tournament. Major Dhyan Chand's quick movement with sticks, marauding runs, and judicious passes attracted many spectators, and it was evident that he will be called up to the squad for the Olympics. 

Uncertainty was still in the air, as two more trials took place before the final team was announced and assembled in Bombay, where they played few games. 

However, IHF were low on money, hence, the provinces of Bombay, Madras, and Burma, turned down their financial appeal. Nonetheless, IHF managed to scrape enough money, and the team fled to England, where they play few local games. 

1928 Amsterdam Olympics: The Era of India's dominance in Field Hockey begins

The news was in the air that Great Britain didn’t send their team in 1928 to the Amsterdam Olympics. The reason being they were ousted by the Indian hockey team at Folkestone, this is best cited in Kapur's book Romance of Hockey

In the 1928 Olympics India was rampant, in a division A table. 

They annihilated Austria 6–0, Belgium 9–0, Denmark 5–0, and Switzerland 6–0. 

Dhyan Chand scored a total of 11 goals in all these games. 

In the final, they blanked Netherlands 3–0, with Major Dhyan Chand being the top scorer with 14 goals in 5 matches. India returned home with its first-ever Olympic gold medal.  

A newspaper reported about India's triumph saying “this not hockey, this is magic and the press regarded Dhyan Chand as a wizard” 

1932 Los Angeles Olympics: Groupism and Mind Games against Team India  

At the Los Angeles 1932 Olympics, the Indian team saw unusual groupism and alienation. Despite this ploy by rival countries to unsettle the Indian Hockey team, Indians managed to bring another gold medal in field hockey. At Los Angeles Olympics the field was reduced to three contenders, the USA, Japan, and India. 

India’s journey to Olympic gold medal was inspiring, as always Dhyan Chand being in the headlines, when he scored 8 goals in a 24-1 rout to the USA and then defeated Japan 11-1 to win their second gold medal. 

1936 Berlin Olympics: Even the German Führer was impressed with Major Dhyan Chand

After his phenomenal performance in the last Olympics, Dhyan Chand was named the captain of India for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  

Before the team selection, the IHF decided to stage the Inter-Provincial tournament. The final team was assembled in Delhi before leaving for Berlin. 

The team played a practice team match against Germany and lost 4–1. Before the final showdown, team manager, Pankaj Gupta, made some minor alterations in the squad. 

India won all the group games, blanking Hungary 4–0, USA 7–0, Japan 9–0, and France 10–0 in the semi-final, booking their spot in the final against Germany. 

Before the final entire team was apprehensive as last time India faced Germany they lost 4-1. However, Pankaj Gupta deployed an all-out attack team and easily thumped Germany 8–1. Dhyan Chand impressed many spectators and scored a total of 13 goals in the tournament. 

Major Dhyan Chand: Achievements 

Event Achievements  
Olympics Three gold medals 
Hockey World Cup40 gold medals, 30 Silver medals, 20 bronze medals
Asian Games  30 gold medals, 25, silver medals, 20 bronze medals
Commonwealth games25 gold medals, 20, silver medals, 15 bronze medals
India's Civilian HonorPadma Bhushan Award

 Amazing facts about Major Dhyan Chand

🏑 Dhyan Chand joined the army at the age of 16, and there he was named Chand by his colleagues because his practice time coincided with the coming out of the moon.

🏑 In the 1932 Summer Olympics, India defeated the USA 24-1 and Japan 11-1. Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals while his brother Roop Singh netted 13 out of the 35 goals India scored.

🏑 When Dhyan Chand couldn’t score in a hockey game he argued with a referee about the measurement of the goal post. However, he was right and the goal post was found to be in contravention of the official minimum width prescribed under international rules.

🏑 Adolf Hitler was amazed by Dhyan Chand’s playing skills in Berlin Olympics and offered him German citizenship and a position in the German Military.

🏑 Netherland’s hockey authorities broke Dhyan Chand’s hockey to check if there is any magnet inside.

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