Better late than never: Hockey India’s gesture to felicitate hockey’s golden greats appreciable

Following into the footsteps of BCCI, who last month had given monetary awards to the former players, in a first such initiative, Hockey India (HI) on Sunday felicitated 34 yesteryear stars of the game with a one-time benefit of Rs 2 lakh each for winning gold medals in the previous Olympic Games. The grand felicitation-cum-Olympic team send-off ceremony was be held at a city hotel, where HI provided a common platform for the golden greats of Indian hockey to share their experiences with the present players, says a report in The Times Of India.

Out of the 34 living Olympians to have received the one-time monetary benefit from the HI coffers, 26 were present on the occasion. The notable Olympic gold medal winners who were present on the occasion were Leslie Claudius (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne), Keshav Dutt (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki, Jaswant Rajput (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki), Raghbir Lal (1948 London, 1956 London) and Harpal Kaushik (1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo and silver in 1960 Rome) among others. SM Ali Syed, Charanjit Singh, Nandy Singh and Balbir Singh Senior gave the function a miss due to health reasons while AS Rana, Allan Sheofield, Darshan Singh and Gurdev Singh were out of the country.

During the function, which was also attended by BJP leader Arun Jaitley, sports minister Ajay Maken and Indian Olympic Association acting president V K Malhotra among others, HI secretary general Narinder Batra said in future national federation will also honour the Asiad and World Cup winning teams.

Meanwhile Indian Express reports that when the Indian flag was hoisted for the first time at the London Olympics on August 12, 1948, Keshav Dutt was a proud man. A year earlier Dutt, had to cross to India from Lahore in the wake of partition. His skills as a forward in hockey earned him a place in the national team for the London Games.

Winning the gold after a 4-0 win over England at Wembley provided a balm to soothe the pain of partition. Watching the tri-colour flutter remains the proudest moment for Dutt, now 86, in a career that also saw him win another gold at the 1952 edition.

Come July 30, 2012, another Indian hockey team will step on the Olympic field in London. Grass has long since given way to turf and at the Riverside Arena at this year’s event, even the green turf will be replaced by blue. When the members of the present team came face-to-face with the 26 men, who had at some point stood on top of the podium at the Olympics, during a felicitation ceremony organised by Hockey India, there couldn’t have been a shortage of inspiration.

“Seeing Leslie Claudius, I feel as if I have become younger by 10 years,” said V. Baskaran, captain of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal winning Indian hockey team.
Baskaran put into perspective the interaction of some legendary Olympic gold winners with the London Olympics-bound Indian team members at a function organised by Hockey India (HI), here on Sunday, says a report in The Hindu.

“It is good for the young players who have never seen Claudius, Jaswant Rajput or Keshav Dutt. It is a historic moment in Indian sport,” said Baskaran.

For 85-year-old Claudius, who shares the record of winning maximum number of Olympic medals (three golds and a silver) in field hockey with the late Udham Singh, it was whiff of fresh air to be remembered and recognised after more than half-a-century.

The standing ovation he received while being felicitated by Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley was a token of appreciation of his great contribution to the sport.