Balbir (Sr.) is the best "Sardar of hockey"

BALBIR SINGH (SR.) with Ashwini Kumar, former President IHF after being named the best "Sardar of Hockey".-R.V. MOORTHY BALBIR SINGH (SR.) with Ashwini Kumar, former President IHF after being named the best "Sardar of Hockey".

The hockey lovers present at the Ashok Hotel on the occasion of naming the best among the top 10 "Sardars of hockey" went back quite satisfied.

Never mind the intention behind making a selection based on religion, the unintended humour of the Master of Ceremonies and the faux pas that led to the end of suspense at the very start of the show. The hockey lovers present at the Ashok Hotel on the occasion of naming the best among the top 10 "Sardars of Hockey" went back quite satisfied.

Though Dhanraj Pillay, the most familiar face of Indian hockey in the past decade, was present on the occasion, the most sought-after person was the triple Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh (Sr.), who was voted as the best Sardar ahead of the late Udham Singh. The vote for the No. 1 player was a close one for the 10-member jury that included three Olympians and three senior journalists.

"I am a secular nationalist," said Balbir (Sr.), 81. "When I learnt they were selecting the top 10 Sikh players of all time, I was not convinced. But later it was explained to me that the idea was only to highlight the contribution of Sikhs to Indian hockey so that the younger generation of Sikhs can take up the game and carry forward a rich tradition. I agreed."

The top 10 Sikhs: 1. Balbir Singh (Sr.); Centre-forward; Olympics 1948, 1952 and 1956; 2. Late Udham Singh; Forward; Olympics 1952, 1956, 1960 and 1964; 3. Harbinder Singh; Centre-forward; Olympics 1964, 1968 and 1972; 4. Late Prithipal Singh; Full-back; Olympics 1960, 1964 and 1968; 5. Ajit Pal Singh; Centre-half; Olympics 1968, 1972 and 1976; Captain, World Cup-winning team 1975; 6. Late Dharam Singh (Sr.): Full-back; Olympics 1952; coach of 1964 Olympics team; 7. Balbir Singh (Railways); Winger; Olympics 1968; 8. Late Surjit Singh; Full-back; Olympics 1976, World Cup 1975; 9. Pargat Singh; Full-back; Olympics 1988, 1992 and 1996; 10. Balbir Singh (Services); Half-back; Olympics 1968.

Rakesh Rao