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Down Memory Lane
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World Cup Captains: Ajit Pal to Rajpal (2/24/2010)
--K. Arumugam
World Cup Captains: Ajit Pal to Rajpal

Ajit Pal Singh: Midfield marvel Ajit Pal Singh had the honour of leading not only India’s First World Cup team, but also the only player to lead India at the World Cup twice. He has the unique standing of being the only Indian captain to lift the World Cup. His talent was noticed early, he went on to play for the country almost 11 years. The handsome lad played for coveted Punjab Police and then Border Security Force hockey teams. Ajit Pal hails from Sansarpur, a village near Jalandhar which has the distinction of producing many international players and Olympians. Born on April4, 1947, Ajit Pal represented Punjab university in 1968. And made his international debut in Japan in the Test series. After London Pre Olympic tournament, he was drafted for first of his of three Olympics, Mexico. Since then he had been a regular in all India’s engagements, the break coming only after India fared badly at the 1976 Olympics under his captaincy. He has often been selected for the Asian XI and World XI and was considered the world’s best centre half of his times.

After his playing career ended in 1980 – when he made a surprising come back – Ajit Pal assumed various roles as Selector, Observer and coach, with disastrous results, though. Ajit Pal Singh lives in Delhi and is currently Government Nominee for hockey.

MP Ganesh: Amsterdam was where Indian hockey legacy started in 1928. Led by Jaipal Singh Indian won its first Olympic gold. When the same city organized the Second World Cup, our Jaipal Singh was MP Ganesh.

The selection of this ‘Speeding Arrow’ -- this how he is known for is sprightly work on the right wing -- is indeed a fitting climax to the great hockey career of him. Ganesh had an effortless style and is gifted with a rare turn of speed and also magnetic ball control.

Born on 8th July 1948 at Mercara-Coorg in Karnataka State, Ganesh is a disciplined hockey player form the Corps of Signals of the Indian Army. His first love in young years was football.

Encouraged by Colonel JS Nanda and other members of the Signals hockey team, Ganesh switched over to hockey. Soon, he developed a flair for hockey and put in lot of hard work. His talent was eventually recognized when he was selected to represent the Services team for the 1967 Nationals. He won the selectors nod for the International tornament held in Bombay in 1970. The same year he was at Bangkok for the Asian Games, where he earned the distinction of being selected to the Asian All Star XI.

After a gold at a tournament in Singapore, he made it to the first World Cup (1971) before getting the honour of representing the country at the Munich Olympics (1972). At Munich Olympics he posted India’s solitary goal against Poland which ensured India its semifinal slot.

He trained the Indian team for the 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Cup.

After playing career, Ganesh joined Sports Authority of India and retired as Executive Director. He presently lives in Bangalore.

VJ Philips: Indian Railways star VJ Philips led India at the fourth World Cup in Buenos Aires. Second right winger after MP Ganesh to lead India in the mother of all battles, the lad from Chennai had a colourful hockey career. Younger brother of triple Olympian VJ Peter, Philips too figured in two Olympics.

He took up umpiring after hanging shoes, and is now lives in Chennai after retiring from Indian Railways.

Surjit Singh: Dependable defender Surjit Singh Randhawa is one of finest hockey players India has produced. He scored goals through penalty corners and relished matches against traditional foe Pakistan. The well-built hard hitter was star of his times. Born on October 10, 1951, Surjit Singh played for Lyallpur Khalsa College, Guru Nanak Dev University and later for Combined Universities. Surjit Singh made his international debut in the second World Cup Hockey Tournament in Amsterdam in 1973. He was one of the proud members of third World Cup Hockey Tournament at Kuala Lumpur in 1975. He took part in two Asian Games (1974 and 1978), 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Surjit Singh was acclaimed as one of the best full backs in the world. In 1973 he was included in the World Hockey XI Next year he was a member of the All-Star Hockey XI. Surjit Singh was also the top scorer-both in the Esanda International hockey Tournament at Perth in Australia and the 1978 Asian Games. Surjit Singh served the Indian Airlines for a few years. Later he joined the Punjab Police. It was tragic that Surjit Singh, after his retirement from the game, died in a road accident near Kartarpur in Jalandhar district. He was survived by his player-wife Chanchal.

Mohammad Shahid: Finest exponent of stick, the Varanasi born Md. Shahid had an exciting and chequered hockey career. The start up Shahid obtained Olympic Gold (Moscow 1980). He was hardly 20 then. The triple Olympian was numero uno of his times, crowds thronging to see him dazzle with stick. At Asia Cups and Test Series against Pakistan catapulted to him top of popularity chart. No wonder he was made captain for the London World Cup in only his second appearance in this genre of competition. Unfortunately, the team touched the nadir, finishing at the bottom.

Shahid lives in Varanasi, works in Indian Railways.

Pargat Singh: Second defender after Surjit Singh to lead us at the World Cup, Pargat Singh is an enduring Indian hockey player. After representing Punjab University at the Combined University teams, Pargat made his international colours in 1985 at Hong Kong.

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