Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:00:00 GMT | By Purnima Malhotra, India Syndicate

Major Dhyan Chand: 'The Wizard' India forgot

Do you know why India celebrates 29th August as its National Sports Day?

Major Dhyan Chand: 'The Wizard' India forgot (© Corbis)

With the National Sports Day approaching, we called up our photo-archives department for some images of Major Dhyan Chand. Speaking of which, do you know the link between Dhyan Chand and the National Sports Day? Do you know why 29th August is an important day in the history of Indian sport? We’ll get back to correlation between the two a tad later.

Coming back to our all-important phone call, the person at the other end of the line apologetically turned down the request.

A couple of days ago, the same department was delighted at one such request. They were asked to send across the best photos of Sir Don Bradman.

In less than an hour, I was staring at the pool of images, and the task at hand was to choose ten best for my feature. For someone who has never seen Bradman in action, I was in a fix but relieved at the same time, thankful to those archives for saving glimpses from the career of inarguably one of the most prolific sports stars.

Don Bradman’s saga, his meteoric rise to the peak of greatness, is a legend for the ages. And quite similar to Bradman's narrative is the tale of Major Dhyan Chand.

During the time Bradman was tearing apart bowling attacks around the world, Dhyan Chand, an established pro and inarguably the most gifted player to grace the game, was helping India win three successive Olympic golds.

Major Dhyan Chand: 'The Wizard' India forgot (© Wikimedia Commons)

Major Dhyan Chand (top row, fourth from left) with the 1928 Olympics team

Debutants are often natural underdogs in sport. And that's why India’s gold haul in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics sent shock waves across the global sporting community. Chand was at the forefront of India's victory. Fourteen goals in 5 games, and he became 'The Wizard' in the hockey fraternity.

Four years down the line, defending champions India were overwhelming favorites at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The undisputed king of hockey, Dhyan Chand stamped his authority with eight goals in the final as India mauled hosts USA 24-1, a world record at that time, to clinch their second consecutive gold.

Dhyan Chand picked up serious interest in hockey when he joined the Indian army. Legend has it that his training involved balancing the ball along the railway tracks for a couple of kilometers at a stretch. A practice that would have seemed meaningless to many, but later, earned him praise from all corners of the world when he showed incredible ball control in pressure situations in the match.

Dhyan Chand’s mastery over the ball not only pulled the masses to the stadiums, it also won him a fan in Adolf Hitler. When Chand-led team stunned the Germans 8-1 for their golden hat-trick in the final of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a mesmerized Hitler offered him German citizenship and a promotion to the rank of a Colonel. Dhyan Chand refused, politely, unlike the snub in the opening ceremony where the Indian contingent led by Chand, along with the American team, refused to salute the Nazi leader.

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