On this day: India bags first Olympic hockey gold post independence

It was India's first hockey gold medal post independence, when it beat Great Britain 4-0 in the final of the 1948 London Olympics.

Balbir Singh Sr. in action during the 1948 Olympics hockey final match between India and Great Britain.   -  The Hindu Archives

India beat Great Britain by four goals to zero in the final of the Olympic Hockey Championship and thus retained the world title.

Pakistan drew with Holland earlier the match to decide the third place in the championship, each side scoring once.

G. Singh opened the scoring in the first half for India, in the third minute. Seven minutes later, Jansen got the second goal. The teams changed over with India leading 2-nil.

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G. Singh secured the third goal for India after 20 minutes in the second half. Trilochan Singh netted the fourth goal 11 minutes later. India's superiority was never in dispute. Despite the heavy muddy turf and the light rain, which fell for a considerable time during the game, the Indians outclassed the British team with the superb ball-control, accurate passing and intelligent positional play.

Great Britain put up stern opposition but they could not cope with the lightning thrusts by the Indians. Long before half-time, it was evident that India should win comfortably. If England had had any other goal-keeper but Brodie, India might have doubled their score. He made save after save and turned India back from what appeared to be certain scores.

From the opening whistle, India gave 10,000 spectators in the Stadium a 70-minute exhibition of intelligent and fast play which never for a moment gave the British a chance of equalising, let alone winning.

The victorious team moved like clock work from the first bully-off to the final whistle. They forced the game, they ran circles round a slow, duller British team; in fact they played one of the fine games ever seen in Britain. But, their task was by means easy.

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Despite the precision of the team work, a few of the Indian stars shone just a little brighter than the others. In the first half, it was G. Singh. He was always on hand at the right moment and it was he who sent in his country's first goal. Jansen, who put India two goals up, was another factor who early established the supremacy of the Indian side. The second half brought its own particular heroes. Well up among them was the Indian right-back, Trilochan Singh, who not only rallied his backs around him but on occasion reinforced the forwards and it was he who sent in the final goal after G. Singh had put the third ahead.

At outside-right, Kishenlal worried the English goal-keeper constantly and only magnificent play by Brodie kept the Indian score down to four.

India had come through to the finals after a superb run in the preliminaries and the final goal-aggregate of  25 for India and 2 against them was one of the best ever achieved in Olympic hockey.

(This article was first published in The Hindu on August 13, 1948)

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