There might be a perplexity regardless of whether field hockey is the national game of India or not. But there is no uncertainty about the great history of this game. And time and again, some of the greatest Indian hockey players have proved the extravagance of the game to the world.
Also Read: Moments in Indian Hockey that make us Proud
Indian Hockey: Past & Present
Once there was a brilliant time for Indian hockey. They governed worldwide until the mid-1970s and won the record number of eight Olympic gold medals which is as yet unbeaten.
The country with some of its top Indian hockey players also won its debut men’s Hockey World Cup held in 1975 and was the first non-European group to be a part of the International Hockey Federation.
Despite being pushed back at the fifth spot in the World rankings, India has created some of the best hockey players. These Indian hockey champions have caught the consideration of the viewers with astonishing stickwork, mazy runs, splendid defending and their goalscoring prowess.
Let’s take a rundown to 7 of the best Indian hockey players the country has ever produced:
Indian field hockey player Dhyan Chand is viewed as the best field hockey player ever and furthermore the best competitor in Olympic history. India was the most overwhelming group in Hockey during career span and won three Olympic gold medals from 1928 to 1936.
Dhyan Chand scored in excess of 1000 goals from 1926 to 1948 and was nicknamed “The Wizard.” Because of his unfathomable abilities, the Netherland’s specialists once broke his stick before a match to check if there was a magnet inside the hockey stick!
Dhyan Chand was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. To pay him respect, Vienna sports club raised the status of him with four arms and four sticks.
Interestingly ‘Chand’ isn’t a part of his name. As he used to rehearse in the moonlight after his duty hours at the Army, his team players called him ‘Chand’ which is a Hindi translation of ‘Moon’.
Dhyan Chand passed away on 3 December 1979.
2Balbir Singh Sr.
Balbir Singh Sr. is another extraordinary player Indian hockey has ever produced. One of the best centre forwards, Balbir Singh was the second Indian hockey player to get India gold medals in three successive Olympics in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). He was also the crucial part of the Indian hockey team when they won a silver medal at Asian Games 1958 and 1962.
Balbir Singh made a record of scoring 5 goals in India’s 6-1 golden victory over the Netherlands at the 1952 Olympic Games. Be that as it may, his record is still unbeaten.
Under his coaching and management, India reached the third set group in the 1971 Men’s Hockey World Cup and won the 1975 Men’s Hockey World Cup as well.
In 1957, Balbir Singh Sr. was awarded the Padma Shri and became the first sports personality to be respected with this renowned honour.
Dhanraj Pillay has been unarguably a standout amongst the best forwards in the world hockey. The ex-captain of the Indian hockey team is famous for his dribbling skill. Dhanraj’s dribbling was so fast to the point that he could easily pierce through any defence without quick notice. The popularity of this charming player has also been acclaimed outside India.
Dhanraj Pillay has gained numerous national and international honours because of his game execution. He was given the Arjuna Award in 1995 and the K.K. Birla Award (1998-99) for his great contribution in sports. The Government of India felicitated him with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1999 and Padma Shree in 2000.
Dhanraj Pillay is one of those prominent Indian hockey players who got play in 3 Olympics, 3 World Cups and 4 Asian Games for his nation.
Known as a pillar of the Indian hockey, Udham Singh is considered as one of the best hockey players of India. He made his international debut with the Hockey Series against Afghanistan in 1949 and went on to represent India in four Olympic Games. He turned onto become the second Indian player after Leslie Claudius, who won three gold and one silver in the Olympic Games.
On the off chance, if he was not left out because of his injury, he could go on to become the only Indian hockey player to represent his nation in five successive Olympic Games.
For his great commitment towards the Indian hockey, Udham Singh was given the Arjuna Award in 1965. He was also the coach of the Indian hockey team when they won a silver medal at Mexico Olympics 1968 and the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970.
5 Leslie Claudius
Leslie Claudius is a standout amongst the best halfback hockey players in India. This legendary player played for the Indian hockey team which won the Olympic gold in three successive years – 1948, 1952, 1956 and a silver medal in 1960.
Leslie was also the first Indian hockey player to have played in four Olympics. He was also the mentor of the national team which completed second in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Leslie passed away on 20 December 2012 at the age of 85.
6Ajit Pal Singh
The ex-captain of the Indian hockey team will be recognized as amongst the most extraordinary centre-half players in the world. Ajit Pal Singh also plays a prominent role in driving India to an exciting triumph in the 3rd World Cup Hockey at Kuala Lumpur in 1975. Singh made his international debut with a competition held at Bombay in 1960 and went on to represent India in three subsequent Olympic Games.
Under his authority, India won silver awards in 1970 and 1974 Asian Games. Ajit Pal Singh became the first sportsperson from India to get selected as India’s chef de mission for 2012 Summer Olympics.
He has been felicitated with Arjuna Award in 1970 and the Padma Shri in 1992.
7Gagan Ajit Singh
Gagan Ajit Singh is unquestionably one of the prominent strikers in the Indian hockey team. Under his guidance, the Indian Junior Hockey team won the Junior World Cup in 2001. He played in the 2000 and the 2004 Summer Olympics where India completed at the seventh spot in the two events.
Other than playing in the local hockey clubs, Gagan has been playing for HC Klein Zwitserland, a field hockey club from the Netherlands, since 2005. He was also the lone player from India to be chosen on the Asian Men Hockey Group (2002).
Gagan holds the record of scoring the most number of goals in the All India Gurmit Singh Tournament and Jawaharlal Nehru Tournament of 1997 for Air India.
He was given the renowned Arjuna Award by the Government of India in the year 2002.
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