On 19 January the Indian cricket team won a great victory against Australia in the fourth test played at Brisbane. The team won despite many first-rank players missing and the India captain back home to be with his wife and newborn baby. Many of the players had little or no test match experience. This was also the first time in 32 years that Australia lost a test match in Brisbane. For interested readers, the Brisbane test ground is called the Gabba because it is located in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba. The Australians shortened the name to “Gabba”!
What was even more fantastic is that many of the players come from extremely humble backgrounds. They have worked incredibly hard to come up to and exceed test match levels. The team is a true reflection of modern India.
Champions of the World
This superb victory in Australia reminded me of another sport and India’s superlative hockey teams of many years ago. Just like this cricket team, the old Indian hockey teams were made up of “sons of the soil.” Hardworking, humble and often poor, these olden day Indian hockey players have never been matched, even by our high profile cricketers.
From 1928, onwards India won six Olympic hockey gold medals in a row – 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956. Till 1960 India had won 30 straight games. The team again won the gold medal in 1964 and 1980. Even now India’s overall record at the Olympics – 77 wins out of 126 matches is better than any other team.
Major Dhyan Chand – One of India’s Greatest Sportspersons
A major influence and a great leader of the Indian hockey team was Major Dhyan Chand (b. 1905, d. 1979). He was part of the first three Olympic hockey gold medals (1928, 1932, and 1936). Dhyan Chand was often called a magician for his great playing and goal-scoring abilities. He scored an incredible 570 goals in 185 matches.
Dhyan Chand was born into a “hockey family.” His father played hockey for the British Indian Army, but as a child, Dhyan Chand was more fond of wrestling. He did not have much formal schooling but when aged 17 he joined the Indian Army. It was there that he started playing hockey. So focused was he on becoming a better player that he spent most of his “rest” time outside army duty, practicing late into the night.
At the first Olympics that India entered a hockey team, the team won every match comfortably. Then at the finals, the situation was a little like our recent fourth cricket test match in Australia. Many leading players had become sick. A much-depleted side, with Dhyan Chand playing even though he was not well, defeated the Netherlands and won its first gold.
Dhyan Chand Captained the team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The final was against Germany and was initially very difficult. In the first half, the Indian team found it difficult to pull away. In the second half, Dhyan Chand famously took out his spiked hockey shoes and wearing rubber-soled shoes scored 3 great goals. India won 8-1.
Dhyan Chand epitomizes the true spirit of India and is an example to all of us.
Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he!
Victory, victory, victory to thee.
Wishing all our readers a very happy Republic Day.
© Kaikhushru Taraporevala