Balbir Sr among the best players hockey has ever seen: Gurbux Singh

Gurbux Singh, 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold-medallist, spoke about his admiration for hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr who passes away on Monday.

Balbir Singh (Sr)

Balbir Singh Senior during his days playing for Punjab Police.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Former Indian hockey defender Gurbux Singh paid tribute to legendary forward Bablir Singh Senior who passed away on Monday due to illness.

“Balbir Singh (Sr.) was a wonderful scorer, one of the best India has ever produced and the world has ever seen. He was calm and quiet on the field, but was an opportunist,” said 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Gurbux Singh.

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As a youngster, Gurbux had the privilege to see Balbir and play briefly against him. “The first time I saw him in Lucknow in 1952. I was a youngster and legends like Balbir, Dharam Singh, Uddham Singh and Trilochan Singh were in action.

“Then I got to play against him in a semifinal in 1955. I got to know him better in 1959 when he became the camp in-charge of the Indian team for the pre-Olympics,” Gurbux, who also bagged a bronze in 1968 Olympics and a gold in the 1966 Asian Games, told Sportstar on Monday.

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Remembering three-time Olympic gold medallist Balbir’s game, Gurbux said, “He would convert off even half-a-chance. His hit was very powerful. He told us that at home he used to break one ball (leather balls were used those days) every day by hitting it against the wall. After all, practice makes a man perfect.

“Balbir is one of the legends from an era when players were self-made. There was no coaching. The maximum you got was some mentoring.”

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Eighty-four-year-old Gurbux said legendary players like Balbir used attract spectators to the stands. “Very sad with the passing of Balbir. We grew up looking up to him. After him, Keshav Dutt, who is not well, is the last one left from the 1948 batch. Players like Balbir, Keshav and K.D. Singh Babu inspired us. It was wonderful to see them in action,” said Gurbux.

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