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Jhansi on the eve of Dhyan Chand's birth Centenary (8/17/2005)
--s2h team
Recently journalist Shailesh Chaturvedi, Hindustan, visited hockey wizard Dhyan Chand's hometown. He observed how neglected is the game of hockey in his hometown, despite concerted efforts by a a few die-hard hockey supporters. Shailesh Chaturvedi's observations are reproduced here for the benefit of wider audience.

The pole posts are broken; stands titled. Some people are chipping tea nearby. One of them is a coach. Outside there is a statute. The letters written below it are hardly visible, not easily readable. But one can make out ultimately what it reads: Major Dhyan Chand. This is Jhansi’s sports Hostel. Who else other than the native hero Dhyan Chand the hostel could have been named after? This city, Jhansi, gave the world the wizard Dhyan Chand. Year 2005 marks Dhyan Chand’s Centenary year. This is a long period. Seeing the disused condition of the ground, it appears true. But to show the world about hockey, there cannot be more suitable place than this.

Many of Dhyan Chand’s magical moments seem blurred in the warp of times, just like the ground I witnessed. Over the 100 years, the story has gathered dust. What arises in one’s mind is that whether we know how to respect our heroes.

Near that house in the Sipri Bazaar displays the sign: Padma Bhusan Major Dhyan Chand. Some medals, memorabilia and trophies are what one encounters on entry into the drawing room. Some photos hanging there flash memories of stick magician Dhyan Chand. Sohan Lal, son of Dhyan Chand, loses himself in the world of hockey. “What is there now, nothing. What were those days!” Having said that he turns to Wali Mohammad. Wali is engrossed in the memory of his friend Dhyan Chand. It is understood he was very close to Dhyan Chand in his last days. His eyes lightens up once he sees children in the street come out, holding sticks in their hands. Soon a boy standing nearby asks the cricket score. Ali comments instantly: “This is the difference between then and now”.

That ground bears the memory of Jhansi Heroes. Dhyan Chand used to play on this ground. He was eventually cremated there. Here lies his samathi on which a bust size statue of him stands now. It’s here often Dhyan Chand’s illustrious son Ashok Kumar used to witness his father playing. International player Subodh Khandker says, “ I saw Dhyan Chand playing here”.

Ali Mohammad fondly remembers the game against women’s team that Dhyan Chand played at his age of 55. The plan was that the old men’s team that Dhyan Chand represented will play with one hand only. And Dhyan Chand should score a goal even as he would smoke. What happened? Do we expect a failure from the magician? He scored goals. Once a women goalkeeper asked him”, I heard that you will scored 10 goals out of 10 attempts? Can you prove it now”. 65-year old Dhyan Chand surprised her with his precision.

Events such as this are part of an epic that Dhyan Chand has been. Seeing today’s sad plight of Indian hockey, it becomes difficult to accept those glorious days were ever occurred. What great stuff of which has been made of those times! When in a tour Dhyan scored more than a hundred goals. His mesmeric skills that dump-bounded the Hitler’s Olympic in 1936. That incident when people resorted to breaking his sticks to see whether there is a magnate inside!

We are so unfortunate that we had no opportunity to see the noble soul that Dhyan Chand is. But the 90-year old Bhagwandas Gupta is not unfortunate like us. People said, “there is a black chap. His game is superb. I have later became his close friend. I played many matches. After retirement, he used to visit only my house. He was utterly unhappy with the performance of Indian hockey teams.”

Adds Wali Mohammad: “When we missed a goal in the 1975 World Cup, he shut off the radio with utmost anger. When we faced defeat at Munich Olympics in 1972, he said, “They wanted to defeat us 36 years ago, and took the revenge now”.

Who wont’ be sad at all. Says his son Ashok Kumar, “He was more than 50. He used to invite the best goalkeepers of the day to face his shots. With one hand he will lift the ball, drop, and on the half volley, he will score in the most unexpected of times. Goals are sure in the ten out of ten attempts. How such a man will bear India doing bad. It was his wizardry that yielded 133 goals out of India’s tally of 338 in the 1932 tour. In 1947 South Africa invited India with a request that the team should include Dhyan Chand, who was then 42 years old! Still there in the 22 matches, he amassed 61 goals.

It all appears just like a magic. It also appears we are far removed from those magic and each day we pass by getting more and more separated from… Everything that concerned with the greats like Don Bradman, Pele, Geoff Nicholas and their ilk are preserved. But in Dhyan Chand’s case, even the medals he won had been stolen. Some of his memories are perpetuated in Patiala

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