History which dates back 4000 years, field hockey has been a widely popular sport in different parts of the world. From ancient Greece to Ireland to Inner Mongolia, Hockey has a deep-rooted presence and been played by millions across the globe.
From 1928 to 1956, India was a ruthless competitor. Hockey became popular in India when the British Regiments played the game in India and introduced it in the British Indian Regiments who quickly picked up the game. The first hockey club was set up in Calcutta in 1885-86. As the popularity grew, Bombay (now Mumbai) and Punjab soon followed Calcutta and formed their Clubs. Between 1928-1956, India at the Olympics won the gold medal consecutively, 6 times. India played 24 Olympic matches, won all 24, scored 178 goals at an average of 7.43 goals per match, and conceded only 7 goals. The first sporting achievement of independent India was the 1948 Olympic hockey gold medal. Over 25,000 spectators watched the 1948 Olympic hockey final between India and Britain, played at Wembley. This was the first time that India and Britain played an official hockey match, and India went on to beat Britain 4-0.
Indian Hockey Golden age produced some of the best field hockey players the world has ever seen. Major Dhyaan Chand, also known as ‘the wizard’ or ‘the magician’, was at the pinnacle of skills and status. He scored 570 goals in 185 matches and his superb ball control was unmatched. India has witnessed the might of some of the best in the world such as Allen, Norris, Pinniger, Yusuf Gateley and Cullen. Sansarpur, a tiny village on the outskirts of Jalandhar, has the distinction of producing 9 Olympians – Gurmit Singh, Udham Singh, Gurdev Singh, Darshan Singh, Jagjit Singh, and the World-Cup winning captain Ajitpal Singh. Another name that clearly stands out is Balbir Singh. Balbir Singh scored five goals in a 6-1 gold medal victory over the Netherlands in Helsinki in 1952.
India’s Golden age continued for 28 years during which the record created by India is likely to stand strong through ages, as no other country has ever managed to come close to it, leave about beating it. Thanks to players like K.D. Singh, Dhanraj Pillay and Dilip Tirkey, the Indian Field Hockey Team achieved new heights.