He didn’t at all times want a hockey stick to tug it off for India, that was the form of magic Balbir Singh Sr might weave and which steered a “demoralised” nationwide crew to its first and solely World Cup gold again in 1975.
All Singh needed to do was provide a pep discuss over breakfast whereas managing the Ajit Pal Singh-led facet, which additionally featured Ashok Kumar, son of Major Dhyan Chand, the unique hockey wizard with whom Singh was in contrast all through his profession. And why not, they had been each three-time Olympic gold-medallists however belonged to completely different eras.
Back to the World Cup of 1975 and it wasn’t fairly going India’s means. A 1-2 loss to Argentina within the league levels had virtually crushed the crew’s possibilities, however that’s when “man manager” Singh, who died at 96 in Mohali after extended sickness on Monday, stepped in.
“We were heartbroken but that is when Balbir Singh Sr took us out for breakfast along with coach Gurcharan Singh Bodhi and individually motivated every player,” Ajit Pal recalled in dialog with PTI. “He told us simply to forget yesterday’s match and concentrate on West Germany. He told us we have the skills to beat Germany by 2 goals and simply focus on our objective,” he added.
Ajit Pal mentioned the demise of Singh was just like the lack of a father determine for him. “His dedication towards hockey and his man management skills were incomparable,” Ajit Pal mentioned. “If Dada Dhyan Chand was a pillar of Indian hockey before independence, Balbir Singh Sr was the other pillar in the post-independence era,” he asserted.
Going again to what appeared like a tricky match, Ajit Pal mentioned the facet duly responded to Singh’s pep discuss. India defeated West Germany 3-1 to qualify for the semifinals, the place they beat hosts Malaysia 3-2 in additional time to arrange a closing date with arch-rivals Pakistan.
In the summit conflict, India defeated Pakistan 2-1 to assert their maiden World Cup title. The successful purpose for India got here from the stick of Ashok Kumar.
Kumar recalled how devastated Singh was when India misplaced to Pakistan within the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1971. The win in opposition to the arch-rivals 4 years later was redemption for the legend.
Singh was the coach of the Indian crew that settled for a bronze within the 1971 World Cup.
“He was the brightest star of Indian hockey, a player whom we all looked up to. I still remember how badly he cried in his hotel room after we lost to Pakistan in the semifinals of the 1971 World Cup,” Kumar instructed PTI.
Kumar refused to attract comparisons between Singh and his father, stating each had been stalwarts of their eras. “It is not right to compare the two. Both are jewels of Indian hockey and their legacy will continue,” he mentioned.