Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HT SPORT -

Bal­bir Singh Sr was a tow­er­ing mem­ber of In­dia’s golden era in hockey post-In­de­pen­dence. Dhyan Chand had helped In­dia achieve a pre-In­de­pen­dence hat-trick of Olympic gold, and af­ter the 12-year break due to WW2, Singh helped make it six in a row. A time­line:

1947: Born on Oc­to­ber 19, 1923 at Haripur, Jalandhar, he be­gan his 11-year ca­reer with the na­tional team as In­dia took up the chal­lenge afresh af­ter In­de­pen­dence.

1948: London Olympics: In­dia beat Great Bri­tain 4-0 in the fi­nal for a his­toric vic­tory over their colo­nial masters un­til a year ago, in their back­yard. Bal­bir Singh filled Dhyan Chand’s shoes as In­dia beat Aus­tria 8-0, Ar­gentina 9-1, Spain 2-0 and Hol­land 2-1 be­fore tri­umph at the Wem­b­ley grounds, af­ter Bal­bir Singh’s two first-half goals. “Those feel­ings of joy are dif­fi­cult to ex­plain. You have to ex­pe­ri­ence it. I was so happy – on top of the world!” he said years later.

1952: Helsinki Olympics: Bal­bir Singh, as vice-cap­tain, was un­stop­pable, scor­ing nine of In­dia’s 13 goals in the tour­na­ment. He put five past Dutch goal­keeper Lau Mul­der in the fi­nal. It stands as the record for most goals scored by a player in an Olympic men’s hockey fi­nal.

1968: Mex­ico Olympics: The warn­ing signs rang in Mex­ico City as Pak­istan won their sec­ond gold and Aus­tralia sig­nalled their rise by tak­ing sil­ver, hav­ing beaten In­dia in the semi-fi­nals. In­dia set­tled for bronze.

1964: Tokyo Olympics: In­dia avenged the Rome loss by beat­ing Pak­istan 1-0 in the fi­nal, claim­ing their seventh hockey ti­tle. The dom­i­nance was re­gained.

1960: Rome Olympics: Bal­bir Singh re­tired with sil­ver in the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games. In his ab­sence, In­dia’s sway in world hockey was dented for the first time when the team led by Les­lie Claudius—he had gold in each of the pre­vi­ous three Games—lost 1-0 to Pak­istan in the fi­nal.

1956: Mel­bourne Olympics: As cap­tain—flag-bearer of the con­tin­gent for the sec­ond time—he helped In­dia com­plete a sec­ond hat-trick of ti­tles. He scored five goals in the open­ing win over Afghanista­n, but was in­jured. He re­turned for the semi-fi­nal and in the fi­nal In­dia beat Pak­istan 1-0.

1971: The World Cup was launched as the sec­ond global event. In­dia again had to set­tle for bronze in the in­au­gu­ral edition in Barcelona as Pak­istan ex­tended their su­pe­ri­or­ity by beat­ing Spain for the ti­tle.

1972: Mu­nich Olympics: It was the last time hockey was played on grass, and In­dia ended with bronze. West Ger­many beat Pak­istan as the Olympic hockey gold slipped out of the sub-con­ti­nent.

1975: World Cup: Bal­bir Singh went as man­ager-cum-coach to Kuala Lumpur, where In­dia won their only World Cup, beat­ing Pak­istan in the fi­nal, on grass. It com­pen­sated for the sil­ver in 1973, but the hockey hege­mony was gone.

1976: Mon­treal Olympics: With hockey moved to Astro-turf, In­dia failed to match their pow­er­ful ri­vals as they ended seventh. It was the first time they failed to reach the semi-fi­nals.

13: Singh was al­lot­ted shirt No. 13, but didn’t see it as un­lucky. “Dur­ing ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion in was Copen­hagen, a girl told me I I wear­ing an un­lucky num­ber. told her in North In­dia, tera (as a pro­nounced in Pun­jabi) is also form of ad­dress to God… At Helsinki Olympics, the van that took us to the sta­dium for our first match had a num­ber plate that added up to 13. We also scored 13 goals in the tour­na­ment.”

1982: Bal­bir Singh lit the flame at the Asian Games in New Delhi. With Pak­istan hav­ing won the 1981 World Cup held in Bom­bay, In­dia had a point to prove on home turf. As chief coach of the hockey team, Singh suf­fered a blow af­ter the hosts were routed 7-1 by Pak­istan in the fi­nal. In the next nine Olympics, they would not reach the semis, mark­ing the slump in In­dian hockey at world level.

1980: Moscow Olympics: The US-led boy­cott had weak­ened the field and In­dia cashed in, win­ning their eighth and fi­nal gold by beat­ing a ral­ly­ing Spain 4-3 in the fi­nal in Moscow.


Bal­bir Singh dur­ing In­dia's 1948 Games n fi­nal against hosts at Wem­b­ley.

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