Today, cricket is the most popular game in India. The amount of craze audiences have for cricket can’t be compared to any other game. Despite being so popular, cricket is not the national sport of India but it is hockey. Hockey has not yet been declared a national sport by law, but the status of a national sport is given to hockey in all books.
There is a golden history behind hockey being the national game of India. Let us know the history and achievements of the Indian hockey.
History Of Hockey In India
Hockey was introduced in India by the British Government in the late 19th century. In the beginning, hockey was introduced as a popular school game. Within a very short period of time, hockey became very popular among Indians. There were many reasons behind the instant popularity of hockey.
Firstly, there were many empty grounds in India during that time. Large spaces made it easier for hockey to build its place among Indians. Secondly, hockey was a game which didn’t require much complicated equipment to play. So, it was easy for the Indian people to adopt hockey in their daily games. Hockey had become the first choice of youths and children in schools.
Then came the time when the British Government included hockey in the Indian Army in 1850. Soon after five years, the first hockey club of India was established in Kolkata in 1855.
After the formation of the hockey club, major national level hockey competitions began to take place. Beighton Cup and Aga Khan tournaments in Calcutta and Mumbai respectively further popularized hockey. The popularity of hockey was more seen in the erstwhile provinces of Bombay and Punjab.
The Golden Era Of Indian Hockey In Olympics
The history of the Indian hockey team in the Olympic Games has been illustrious. India won 6 gold medals in the Olympics from 1928 to 1956. The year from 1928 to 1956 is also referred to as the ‘Golden Era of Indian Hockey’. During this, the great hockey player of the Indian hockey team, Major Dhyan Chand, illuminated the name of India all over the world.
The Indian hockey team first participated in the Olympic competition held in Amsterdam in 1928. During the competition, the Indian team did not allow the opposing team to score a single goal in five matches. India won the gold medal for the first time in the Amsterdam Olympics. This was the time when hockey was given the status of national sport of India in 1928.
India again won gold medals in the Olympics of Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin in 1936 making a hat- trick. The cycle of winning gold in Olympics continued till 1956. However, the victory of the Indian hockey team in the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympics was more special. This is because, India was playing as an independent nation in all these olympics.
Between 1928 and 1956, India won a total of 6 gold medals in the Olympics. That’s why the period from 1928 to 1956 is named as the golden era of Indian hockey.
Major Dhyan Chand- ‘The Magician Of Hockey
Major Dhyan Chand led India to victory in many Olympic matches on his own. He was playing for the United Provinces team when he got selected in the Indian hockey team for 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. In the Amsterdam Olympics, India had scored 29 goals. Out of 29 goals, 14 goals were scored alone by Major Dhyan Chand.
Major Dhyan Chand drew a lot of appreciation for his amazing game during the Olympics. International newspapers often used to call him the ‘Magician of hockey’. The wizard of hockey played his last Olympics in 1936. He was also the captain in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
In 2021, the name of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award was changed to Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. PM Modi through his tweet had announced that Dhyan Chand’s name would be added to the Khel Ratna Award. This was one of the great initiatives taken by the government to honour the legacy of Major Dhyan Chand.
Achievements Of Indian Hockey
- Today, the Indian hockey team has a total of 8 gold medals, 1 silver medal and a bronze medal in the Olympics.
- India also got the membership of the International Hockey Federation in 1927.
- Men’s hockey team made India proud by winning the world cup title in 1975.
- The Indian hockey team won gold at the 1968 Asian Games. Before this, the Indian hockey team had won silver medals at the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games.
The Women’s Hockey Team Achievements
Not only men, but women have also represented India in international hockey competitions. In 1974, the women’s hockey team made its first appearance internationally at the inaugural women’s Hockey World Cup. The women’s team finished the tournament at a creditable fourth. In the commonwealth Games 2002, the women’s team won gold for the country.
Furthermore, the women won silver and bronze In the 2006 commonwealth Games and Asian Games respectively. The women again made India proud by winning silver at the 2018 Asian Games. It was a proud moment for India, when the women’s team qualified for 2016 Rio Olympics. This was the first time in the 36 years that the women’s team had qualified.
Reviving The Old Glory Of The National Sport
After ruling in the Olympics for more than 2 decades, India saw the gradual decline of the men’s hockey team. It was a huge disappointment for India, when the hockey team didn’t qualify for the Beijing Olympics. They hadn’t even qualified for the 2006 commonwealth Games. After a lot of disappointments in various hockey tournaments, the hockey team had needed a comeback.
In the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Indian team made a comeback by winning silver. They also won bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Then, the men’s hockey team began generating a ray of hope by qualifying in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics.
Finally, the 41-year drought of medals in the Olympics ended in 2012. The Indian team made a thrilling comeback by winning the bronze medal.
Presently, the women’s hockey team is making good efforts to establish itself at the global level. On the other hand, the men’s hockey team is trying their best to revive the old glory of Indian hockey. Let’s see when the golden era of hockey again comes.
Conclusion:- We know today cricket has more fan base than hockey. The color of hockey may have faded in front of the popularity of cricket. But, no one can deny the fact that hockey with its golden era has left an indestructible mark in Indian history. At last we can say that past success of Indian hockey makes it worth referring to as a national sport.