From selling autographs to meeting Don Bradman, the Dhyan Chand we didn’t know

His exploits on the field are well known but what was Dhyan Chand like off it? Here’s a look at a few things you probably didn’t know about the hockey legend.
By Naveen Peter

Regarded as the wizard on the field, Dhyan Chand’s contribution to the world of hockey is well known.

Be it his first taste of the game at the Army barracks as a teenager or his mesmerising performances at the three Olympic Games - 1928, 1932 and 1936 - Dhyan Chand has been at the forefront of hockey’s renaissance in India.

As the nation commemorates Saturday the hockey great’s birth anniversary with the National Sports Day, here’s a look at some of the lesser-known facts about the hockey great.

Fundraiser for earthquake victims

Quetta (now in Pakistan) was the epicentre of a devastating earthquake that reportedly killed over 50,000 people in 1935.

With India - then an English colony - stretched for help, Dhyan Chand took it upon himself to raise some much-needed funds in his own way.

On the tour of Australia and New Zealand ahead of the 1936 Olympics, the then Indian hockey captain, Dhyan Chand, resorted to selling his autographs to fans as a part of his fundraiser for the earthquake victims. Vice-captain MN Masud joined him in this noble cause.

Meeting the Don

The Indian hockey team’s tour Down Under was special for Dhyan Chand in more than one way.

While it proved to be a perfect tune-up ahead of the Berlin 1936 Olympics, the team also ended up meeting the legendary Australian batsman Sir Donald Bradman in Adelaide.

Dhyan Chand dabbled with cricket as well, once famously making the bowlers sweat during a friendly match at Mount Abu in 1961. Photo: Ashok Kumar

Seeing the hockey wizard in action, the cricket great couldn’t stop praising Dhyan Chand. “You score goals like runs in cricket,” Don Bradman had famously said.

“I am particularly glad to welcome the Indian players as they are better exponents of the game of hockey than we are,” the prolific batsman added. “We will have the opportunity of learning something from them. I hope that this visit will be the forerunner of a visit from an Indian cricket team.”

While India started playing Test cricket in 1932, their first visit to Australia was their tour in 1947-48. Don Bradman scored 715 runs in that series, at an average of 178.75.

A special place for Beighton Cup 

While Dhyan Chand delighted the world with his skills, closer home the Beighton Cup in Calcutta reserved a special place in his heart. 

During its golden period, the Beighton Cup and the Aga Khan Tournament (in Bombay) were the lifelines of Indian hockey.

Every player aspiring to make it big in hockey eyed these competitions as a perfect platform to impress men who mattered. And it was no different for Dhyan Chand.

“I had always regarded this competition (Beighton Cup) as the blue riband of Indian hockey. In my opinion, it is perhaps the best-organised hockey event in the country,” Dhyan Chand wrote about the competition in his autobiography, Goal.

London tube dons Dhyan Chand’s name

While a commemorative postal stamp and a statue outside the national hockey stadium in New Delhi are well-known dedications to the hockey wizard, not many know that ahead of the London 2012 Olympics, Dhyan Chand’s name made its way to the London tube as well.

Watford Junction was renamed after Dhyan Chand ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. Photo: Instagram/ IOA

As a part of their build-up to the London Games, the organisers decided to rename the 361 train stations on the London tube network after famous Olympic personalities. This included superstars like Michael Phelps, Muhammed Ali and Jesse Owens, among others.

From India, the organisers shortlisted three names. Dhyan Chand, his brother Roop Singh and Leslie Claudius. While Watford Junction was renamed after Dhyan Chand, Watford High Street took Roop Singh’s name and Bushey Heath had Claudius’.