1936 Olympics: Hat-trick for India under Dhyan Chand

As destiny would have it, the Berlin Games was to be Dhyan Chand’s third and last Olympics at the age of 31, for he had decided to retire. Undoubtedly at the peak of his prowess, he was handed the Indian team’s captaincy and this time, there was no dissent, though the omission of Richard Carr raised a few eyebrows, but he was not released by the Indian Railways.

The run-up to the Games was not exactly satisfactory. A 1-4 defeat to Germany in a practice game rang alarm bells in the Indian camp. Following a team meeting, it was decided to bring in Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara who was to represent Pakistan in the 1948 Olympics following the partition.

India won all their three league matches and hammered France 10-0 in the semifinals and Germany 8-1 in the gold medal round, but not without some drama. Dhyan Chand lost a tooth in a collision with the particularly aggressive Germany goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz who had a nightmarish game.

Returning to the field after medical attention, Dhyan Chand reportedly told the players to “teach a lesson” to the Germans by not scoring. The Indians repeatedly took the ball to the German circle only to backpedal.

Dhyan Chand established himself as the greatest hockey player of the time and ended the Berlin Olympics on a high with a tally of 11 goals, the same as his brother Roop Singh.

Team manager Swami Jagan Nath said of Dhyan Chand in his tournament report: “Dhyan Chand who once more proved himself as the best centre-forward in the World, demonstrated his worth as a great captain. Held in great esteem, affection and admiration by the players, he was the central luminary around whom the members of the team revolved.”

Such was the fan following for Dhyan Chand that after the Partition in 1947, he was included in the Indian team on a goodwill tour of Kenya who insisted on the wizard’s inclusion. India won all the 28 matches with Dhyan Chand scoring 61 goals, second only to Kunwar Digvijay Singh “Babu”, the new star on the horizon, who topped with a strike of 70.

Thus, Dhyan Chand finished his international career with three Olympic gold medals, but more importantly drew World-wide attention not only on himself but Indian hockey.

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