The National Sports Day is held every year on August 29 to commemorate the birthday of the great Dhyan Chand known throughout the world as the “Wizard of Hockey”. But the ultimate honour which he richly deserves has been denied to him and nothing is being done to rectify the situation. Neither the past governments nor the present one has conferred upon him the prestigious Bharat Ratna award which is he richly deserves.
A section of hockey lovers has been campaigning strongly for several years for Dhyan Chand to be given the highest honour of India but their cries have fallen on deaf ears. Now, one more National Sports Day is around the corner. Once again, events will be held, speeches will be made and then the issue of placing Dhyan Chand amongst the elite personalities of India will be shelved.
Dhyan Chand is the greatest goal scorer in the history of hockey. His strike rate was an average of more than three goals per match which is far higher than that of the millionaire footballers of today including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Modern day football players enjoy a luxurious life but India’s greatest player was in dire straits after he retired from the game.
As an elderly person, when he fell ill and had to be hospitalised, he had to depend upon the goodwill of well wishers to pay his medical bills. This is the way India treats its national heroes.
The injustice does not end there. Few Indians know about Dhyan Chand’s goal scoring feats. But every sports fan in India knows of Don Bradman’s records. Our media and our hockey federation have not informed the Indian public about our own hero but the record of a foreign superstar.
Dhyan Chand scored an incredible 570 goals from 185 matches played between 1926 and 1949. This gives him an average of 3.08 goals per match. Football’s superstars average below one goal per match.
Dhyan Chand brought home three Olympic gold medals, the first one being from Amsterdam (1928), then Los Angeles (1932) and finally Berlin (1936). He was at his dazzling best against Germany in the final match. He scored 4 goals as India trounced Germany 8-1. This was despite the fact that the German team indulged in rough play which resulted in Dhyan Chand getting hit on the mouth and having one tooth broken.
Whenever he had a hockey stick in his hands he was unstoppable. There was an occasion when Don Bradman met Dhyan Chand and when the Don learnt of Dhyan Chand’s feats, he remarked: “Chand scores as many goals as I score runs.”
Yet, till today, Dhyan Chand is not recognised as a Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India). Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award will be renamed and it will now be named as Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award. Players and sports lovers lauded this move. On the face of it, the move does seem to be a praiseworthy one. But let us look under the surface.
Renaming the Khel Ratna award after Dhyan Chand was a clever diversion. It was done to create an impression that the Modi sarkar has accorded respect to India’s greatest sportsman. The more important issue of the Bharat Ratna award for Dhyan Chand will now be brushed under the carpet. The gullible public will be satisfied that Dhyan Chand has been given his due.
So the fact remains that he continues to be deprived of an honour that he richly deserves. Why this superstar of Indian sport is being treated in this shabby manner is something that only the government knows.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.