New Delhi: Former Olympians Leslie Claudius and Gurbax singh feel the legendary Dhyanchand did not get his due in India and demanded a joint Bharat Ratna for the Hockey wizard, along with champion cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, on his 106th birth anniversary.
"It is true that Dhyanchand did not get his dues in the country but that`s how Hockey administration is in India. It is regretful," Leslie Claudius, who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist (London 1948, Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956) told reporters.
He was also the member of silver medal winning Indian team at Rome Olympic in 1960. He was in the national team when Dhyanchand was coach in 1959.
"Dadda (Dhyanchand) deserved a lot more then the Padma award. People are demanding Bharat Ratna for Sachin. I am not against it but if Sachin gets before Dhyanchand, it will be a tragedy," said Gurbax singh, who is also Olympic gold medallist (Tokyo 1964). He also won Bronze four years later.
"Joint Bharat Ratna can be conferred on Dhyanchand and Sachin. There is no doubt that Dhyanchand is all time best player India had ever produced. For Hockey Dhyanchand is what Pele is for Soccer and Bradman is for Cricket. They are synonyms of game they played," he said.
A legendary centre forward Dhyanchand won three Olympic gold medals (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin) and was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India`s third highest civilian honour, in 1956.
Gurbux made his debut in national camp in Patiala in 1959 when Dhyanchand was the chief coach and he regrets that there are no videos available of Dhyanchand era so that young generation can see how the magician of Hockey used to play.
"I remember Dhyanchand, Balbir Singh senior, KD Singh babu and Kishan Lal were the selectors in 1959. That was for the first time I witnessed the magic of Dadda. No player could get control over ball from him even in that age. I regret that we don`t have videos of his playing days," recalled Gurbux.
"Generations do get inspired from icon players. Modern day Hockey players have only heard about Dhyanchand`s dribbling and technique. After our generation, which has seen him playing, who will tell them about him," he rues.
Gurbux was the captain and Dhyanchand was the chief coach when India won Leons tournament in France in 1963.
"I got a chance to know him closely during that period. He was a legend but did not have any starry airs. He liked fishing a lot and used to cook fish for us. I remember when we went to Berlin with him he told us that we had defeated Germans here in Olympic 1936 and I don`t want to go back as a looser now. You have to win it for me," he said.
"He was a disciplinarian as a coach and never compromised on fitness. There was no place in his team for any injured played while today we see unfit players are there in Cricket and Hockey teams," he said.
Caludius said that though Dhyanchand was very senior to him but he shared friendly vibes with him.
"He was my best friend. We used to meet at almost every tournament. I had played a friendly match with him in 1953. He was my coach in 1959 and I have great memories of him. He used to call me Gorrayya (sparrow) because I was very thin," said the veteran.
"Dhyanchand should have got the highest civil award years back. Our system is to be blamed for this. I got Padamshri in 1971, 11 years after Rome Olympic which was my last," he said.