A role model

THE legendary Dhyan Chand was a born genius. His brilliant golden performances at the Olympic Games — Amsterdam-1928, Los Angeles-1932 and Berlin-1936 — as victorious captain had made him not only a hockey wizard but also a household name in the entire country. Every child of my age playing hockey in those days wanted to become a renowned player like him and I was no exception.

I started hockey as a 'keeper and a deep defender. After annual exams, regular 11-a-side games not being possible, we used to play casual `mini hockey'. It was a game in which the few players present on a particular day used to form two teams and play. Each player was free to perform as a defender or an attacker, as a particular situation on the field demanded.

This was how that one season of `mini hockey' at age 16 made me a centre forward and the wizard Dhyan Chand my role model. From then onwards, the more I read or heard of his incomparable feats on the field, the more I got inspired by his extraordinary talent and uncanny game skills. Of course, I enjoyed scoring goals and never looked back.

Like many others I too used to address Dhyan Chand as Dada — meaning elder brother. He was seldom selfish. His priority always was to pass the ball to a better-placed team-mate. He was a team player. Only when surrounded he used to beat an opponent either to penetrate himself or to create a gap for a pass. And his passes were always measured and accurate.

Dhyan Chand was a real sportsman on the field and a down to earth gentleman off it. The name and fame he enjoyed throughout did not make him arrogant. He was rather modest and more dignified. I always found him unassuming and polite. Whenever approached for guidance he readily gave valuable tips. I never noticed him losing temper on the field.

Many a hockey player must have tried to follow in his footsteps. Exactly 20 years later, I was lucky enough in winning the Olympic gold three times in a row — at London-1948, Helsinki-1952 and Melbourne-1956 as captain. For my success I always give the entire credit to my parents, family, coaches, team-mates, patrons and my role model.

For a very long time we have not been able to win gold medal at any of the three important world level competitions namely Olympic Games, World Cup and the Champions Trophy. Consequently, we have fallen quite low in the official world ranking. In my humble opinion, winning a gold medal at any one of the above three competitions would be the most befitting tribute to the hockey wizard. — Balbir Singh, former Olympian.