Is hockey the national sport of India? Well, this is still a topic of debate. However, the glorious history of this game is a fact. The history of hockey is richer as compared to most of the popular games across India such as football, cricket, tennis, chess, and basketball.
Indian hockey had enjoyed a golden era. Until the mid of 1970s, India ruled the international field hockey. The team had won the record number of 8 Olympic gold medals. This record still goes unbeaten. In the year 1975, India won its maiden men’s Hockey World Cup. The country was officially the first non-European team to participate in the International Hockey Federation.
Unfortunately, increasing popularity of other sports such as cricket and lack of sponsors, the game is almost on the verge of being wrecked.
Here is a list of the 7 best players of Indian Hockey team of all times:
1. Dhyan Chand
This amazing hockey player definitely deserves the top position owing to the glorious record he had been able to maintain in the Indian hockey history. Regarded of one of the best players of all time, Dhyan Chand was awarded with the title of “The Wizard” owing to his skill and brilliant control over the ball. Chand is remembered for his unprecedented talent. He is also referred to as the best hockey player the country has ever produced.
The legendary hockey star has accomplished numerous records for India during his international career. His sterling performances helped India win gold medals in the years 1928, 1932, and 1936 for the Olympics. In the year 1948, Chand played his last game. He holds the record of scoring 400 phenomenal international goals, the highest ever scored. The government of India felicitated the great player with the prestigious Padma Bhushan award. Vienna sports club honored Chand by raising a statue of him with four sticks and arms.
The player got his name ‘Chand’ because he practiced under moon light after completing his duty in the Army. So his fellow players started to address him as ‘Chand’ meaning ‘Moon’.
2. Mohammed Shahid
Known for amazing dribbling skills, Mohammed Shahid is one of the best players in the history of Indian hockey. Also named as the ‘Best Forward’ (Champions trophy 1980), Shahid was also a part of the team that won the gold medal in the Olympic Games of 1980 held in Moscow. His sterling contribution to the game won him the prestigious Arjuna Award (1980-1981) and the prestigious Padma Shri (1986). He managed to earn a place in the Asian All-Star team in the year 1986. His partnership with Zafar Iqbal worked really well. The partnership could dismay even the sturdiest defenses in World Hockey.
3. Dhanraj Pillay
Pillay is certainly one of the best and strongest forwards in Indian hockey. The skilled player also served as the captain of the Indian hockey team and was acknowledged for his dribbling skill. It is believed that Pillay’s dribbling was fast enough to easily pierce through defense. The reputation of this enigmatic player crossed the borders during his heydays.
The great player achieved several national and international awards for his unbeatable performance in the game. He was felicitated with the Arjuna Puraskar in the year 1995 and later on, the prestigious K.K. Birla Award (1998-99). As per the popular hockey India news, the Indian government honored this player by felicitating him with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for the year 1999 and later on Padma Shree in the year 2000.
Pillai was the only Indian hockey player to have got selected in the World Eleven side for the Sydney World Cup (1994). Dhanraj Pillai is also the only player to have played in 4 Asian Games, 3 Olympics, and 3 World Cups for India.
4. Udham Singh
Udham Singh is widely referred to as the pillar of the Indian hockey team. This great hockey player made his international debut in 1949 with the famous Hockey Series played against Afghanistan. Singh made India proud by winning three gold and one silver medal in the Olympic Games. In order to acknowledge the Singh’s contribution to the Indian hockey game, the government felicitated him with the prestigious Arjuna Award in the year 1965. Later on, he served as the coach for Indian hockey team that won a Silver Medal in 1968 at Mexico Olympics and the Asian Games held in Bangkok in the year 1970.
5. Leslie Claudius
One of the most popular players in the history of Indian hockey, Claudius is also widely revered to be one of the best halfback players who ever played hockey. This fabled player was also a member of the Indian hockey team that won the prestigious Olympic gold for the following three consecutive years:
In the year 1960, Claudius helped the team win a silver medal. He became the first player to have played in four Olympics. Being the first player who played over a hundred international matches, Claudius also served as the official coach for the national team that completed second for the Olympics in Rome in the year 1960. The great player breathed his last at 85 on 20 December 2012.