Major Dhyan Chand: The Magician of Hockey

On the 6th of August 2021, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi tweeted that the Government of India would be renaming India’s highest sporting honour from the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna to the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna. This announcement came on the heels on the Men’s Indian Hockey team winning the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This is significant due to the greatness and impact Major Dhyan Chand left on the sport especially in India. Nicknamed The Wizard and The Magician of Hockey, he was renowned worldwide for his superior skills and extraordinary ball control skills.

Early life

Major Dhyan Chand was born on the 29th of August 1905 in Allahabad in what was then known as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in British-India. His father was a member of the British Indian Army. Major Dhyan Chand grew up with hockey right from his birth; his father used to play hockey for the Army. However, apart from playing casual games of hockey with his friends, according to Major Dhyan Chand, he did not have any serious interest in hockey. He joined the British Indian Army on his 17th birthday.

Major Career Achievements

Major Dhyan Chand started playing hockey competitively after joining the British Indian Army. Initially he played only tournaments within the army. His first international competition was in a tour against New Zealand. He was selected to be a part of the Indian hockey team for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Despite it being the debut Games for the hockey team, they dominated it and ended up winning the gold medal. Major Dhyan Chand was the top-scorer in the whole tournament. This was the Games which lead to his nickname The Magician of Hockey. In the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, he was once again a part of the hockey team as they once again won the gold. In 1934, he was appointed as the captain of the national team. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Major Dhyan Chand captained the team into winning its third consecutive gold medal.

Post-Retirement

Major Dhyan Chand continued playing hockey even after retiring from the competitive field. He used to regularly teach hockey in coaching camps at Mount Abu in Rajasthan. He was appointed to the position of Chief Hockey Coach at the Patiala branch of the National Institute of Sports and had a tenure of many years there. He passed away on the 3rd of December 1979.

Legacy

The Government of India declared his birthday, the 29th of August as National Sports Day. It is also the day when sports-related awards are conferred. India’s highest award for a lifetime achievement in sports was named the Dhyan Chand Award. The National Stadium in Delhi, a field hockey stadium, was renamed as the Dhyan Chand National Stadium. On the 6th of August 2021, India’s highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was renamed to the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna in highlight of the contribution and impact Major Dhyan Chand left on hockey both nationally as well as internationally.