BY DEEPAK SHARMA
New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) In the autumn of 1931, iconic Hollywood star Charlie Chaplin had a brief meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in a humble little house in East India Dock Road in London. A year later, in Los Angeles, Charlie Chaplin had another memorable meeting with another Indian icon, Major Dhyanchand.
The hockey wizard, who registered some of the biggest wins in the game, was an instant star at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics after winning the gold for India.
“Charlie Chaplin came to the Olympic village and met Dada (Dhyanchand) and his other teammates. The American media highlighted the meeting,” revealed Ashok Dhyanchand, World Cup winner and son of the hockey legend, who along with several Olympians has demanded Bharat Ratna for Dhyanchand.
Remembering his father on his 115th birth anniversary, Ashok said that India honors the hockey legend by celebrating National Sports Day on his birthday on August 29 every year.
“This is an honor not only for our family but for all sports loving people of the country. And to be true, the Bharat Ratna for Dhyanchand has been demanded by the people of India, and not by us. It’s for the government to decide. As far as I know, the Sports Ministry (during UPA-2) had recommended Bharat Ratna for Dada, but somehow the final approval on the file was for Sachin (Tendulkar),” said Ashok, who scored the winning goal against Pakistan in India’s maiden World Cup title at Kualalumpur in 1975.
On Tendulakar, the hockey Olympian said, “I have respect and love for Sachin. He is the greatest cricketer India has ever produced. But top sports historians are of the view that Dhyanchand was the greatest sportsman ever born in Indian sub-continent…because he was unbeatable. For an athlete to remain unbeaten for an entire career, in any sporting discipline, is itself a record.”
On a rare photograph of Dhyanchand playing cricket, Ashok said Dada was brilliant in several games. Billiards was his favorite pastime. He was fond of football and also played cricket.
In a friendly match played in Mount Abu (in 1950s), Dhyanchand batted as a star and the bowlers could not beat him for once. Dhyanchand’s autobiography “Goal!”, published in 1952 by Sports and Pastime, Chennai, reveals about the hockey legend’s meeting with cricket legend Sir Don Bradman.
On May 2, 1935 in Adelaide, Bradman arrived at a function hosted for Dhyanchand and his team by the Lord Mayor. Bradman was so impressed by Dhyanchand’s spellbound stickwork that he compared his runs with the latter’s goals scored on the tour.
In that tour, Dhyanchand played 43 matches and scored 201 goals. Bradman later posed with Dhyanchand for photographs.
On Bharat Ratna for Dhyanchand, Ashok said that being his son, this question is asked to him every year on the eve of National Sports Day.
“Often I feel why I am being asked about Bharat Ratna? The question should be asked to the government. More precisely to the UPA-2 regime, which had recommended Bharat Ratna for Dada but did not honor the recommendation of the then sports minister,” Ashok said, adding, “However, the government has announced so many awards in his memory. So many stadia have been built in his name… I am honored by the government’s recognition for Dada’s contribution to sports.”
On National Sports Day, the government honors outstanding sportspersons by giving them Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Arjun Award and Dronacharya Award (for best coach) at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is the Dhyan Chand Award which has been awarded annually from 2002 to sporting figures who not only contribute through their performance, but also contribute to the sport after their retirement.
The government also named the National Stadium in Delhi in the memory of Dhyanchand. Several streets, parks and playgrounds have been named in the memory of the hockey wizard, both in India and abroad.
BY DEEPAK SHARMA