Hockey is the national sport of India. However, India is famous for Cricket when it comes to Sports. But if you look back into the golden history of Hockey in India, you’ll understand why the sport is so revered in India. In fact, Hockey is the only sport in India that has told the nation the news of Victory on International Platforms so many times in the pre-Independence era that the Indians started looking up to this sport as a symbol of Unity.
The History of this Sport in India dates back to the second half of the 19th century when the sport started gaining familiarity. It led to the coming up of the first Hockey Club in India in Calcutta in 1885. As the sport gained popularity, Punjab and Bombay came up with their own state clubs. Indian Hockey made its debut in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, where the Indian team maintained a clean sheet all throughout and won the gold medal. The spree continued for the next six Olympics till 1956 while India won Gold in every tournament. Adding more to the collection in the coming generations of Indian Hockey, India won two more golds in Tokyo 1964 and the Moscow 1980 Olympics. And in the rest of the Olympics, India was the strongest of the competitors bagging home silver and bronze medals, if not gold on most occasions.
The attacking and playmaking as well as the goalkeeping and defense of India has been of the best quality, proof of which is our goals scored to goals conceded ratio on all the international platforms. And as it’s said, ‘A-Team is it’s each and every Player’, our Country has given this Sport some of the best and legendary players. The Players that the Indian Youth looks up to, the players this nation taps its pride upon. So today, we’d be telling you about ten of these great players that made India a symbol of excellence worldwide in this Sport.
1. Dhyan Chand
We don’t think we need an introduction to this name. The Legend of Hockey and probably the greatest one this sport has ever seen. Born on 29th August 1905, which is celebrated now as the National Sports day. His goal-scoring ability is still unmatched after almost a century is about to complete post his era. He won three Olympic Golds, in 1928, 1932, 1936. Nicknamed as The Wizard or The Magician, he also served in The British Indian Army and later in the Indian Army by the rank of a Major. He died aged 74 on 3rd December 1979 in Delhi.
2. Balbir Singh Sr.
Balbir Singh Dosanjh also called Balbir Singh Sr. because there were three great Hockey players by the name Balbir, so as to distinguish him. He was also called as ‘Modern Day Dhyan Chand’. Born on 31st December, a God’s new year gift to Indian Hockey, He won three Gold medals for India in the 1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. His record of scoring the most goals (5 in the 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the 1952 Olympics) in an Olympic Finals’ History is still unbeaten. He also won a silver medal in the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games. He died recently aged 96 on 25th May 2020 in Mohali, Punjab.
3. Dhanraj Pillay
Born on 16th July 1968 is referred to as some of the best Hockey Players in India. Though he has retired now, He is the former skipper of the Indian Hockey Team and now is working as the Deputy General Manager with Air India Ltd. He also has been commanding the SAG Hockey Academy which is a state Academy funded by the Gujarat Government. He has scored 170 Goals for India in 339 Apps and also has won two Golds in 2001 and 2003 Kuala Lumpur Champions Challenge and Asia Cup respectively.
4. Leslie Claudius
Leslie Walter Claudius was a legendary player of the British India who won many Gold Medals for India in the Olympics post-Independence. Born in Bilaspur on 25th March 1927 in British India. He and Udham Singh are the only two Indian Players to win four Olympic Medals in Field Hockey. He won three Gold medals in the 1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He won two Silvers as well in the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1956 Tokyo Asian Games.
5. Udham Singh
Born on the 4th of August 1948, Udham Singh was one of the greatest players representing the Indian Hockey on Olympic Platforms. An Arjuna Award recipient, He was known as the most versatile player of the Sport in the mid- 20th Century. He could play a half back, a left-in, a right-in, center-forward, and center half smoothly. He won three Golds in the 1952 Helsinki, 1956 Melbourne, and 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a silver in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
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6. Ajit Pal Singh
Born on 1st April 1947, He is an Arjuna Award Recipient in 1970 and has led India to some of the most Iconic triumphs post 1928-1964 Gold spree. He has won two Bronze medals in the 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympics. He has also won a bronze, silver, and gold in 1971 Barcelona, 1973 Amsterdam, and 1975 Kuala Lumpur hockey world cups respectively.
7. Mohammad Shahid
Born on the 14th of April 1960, he was known in the Hockey world for his dribbling skills. An Arjuna Award in 1980-81 and a Padma Shri Award in 1986 recipient, he was the torchbearer for the post gold spree generations. He won a Gold in 1980 Moscow Olympics and a silver and a bronze in the 1982 Delhi and 1986 Seoul Asian Games respectively. He died aged 56 on the 20th of July 2016.
8. K.D. Singh
Kunwar Digvijay Singh called K.D. Singh and called by his nicknames as Babu was born on 2nd February 1922 and was known as one of the greatest passers and dribblers in the history of Hockey. Many compare his dribbling skills to Dhyan Chand. He won two golds in the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He died aged 56 on 27th March 1978.
9. Roop Singh
Born on 8th September 1908, he was an Indian Hockey Player who was the younger brother of Dhyan Chand, the Legend. He himself is considered as one of the greatest Hockey Players of all time. He won two golds for India in the 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin Olympics. He died aged 69 on the 19th of December 1977.
10. Shankar Laxman
Born on the 7th of July 1933, he is known as the ‘Wall of Indian Hockey’ or the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ for his Goalkeeping Position. He led Indian Team to win the 1966 Asian games Gold. When not selected in the 1968 Olympics, he left hockey and joined the Army. His medal tally is enormous with two golds and one silver in the 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo, and 1960 Rome Olympics respectively. He won two silvers and one gold in 1958, 1962, and 1966 Asian games respectively. A Padma Shri recipient, he died aged 72 on 29th April 2006.
So, these were our picks for the best Hockey Players India has ever given to the world. It is a sad reality that many of the names present on this list have now been forgotten. We tried to add as many forgotten names in this list while maintaining the authenticity of the list. If you have any excerpts or anecdotes from watching these legends play, let us know in the Comments section.
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