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Dhyan Chand most deserving sportsperson for Bharat Ratna: Zafar Iqbal




Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand is the most deserving sports personality for the Bharat Ratna award, says former captain of the Indian men’s hockey team Zafar Iqbal.

“As far as sports is concerned, Dhyan Chand is the most deserving candidate for Bharat Ratna,” Iqbal told IANS in an exclusive interview.

In 2014, legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar became the first and the only sportsperson to be conferred with the Bharat Ratna. However, even before that, calls have been made over the years to award Dhyan Chand with country’s highest civilian award.

“Sachin Tendulkar has been given the Bharat Ratna award. At that time also, we had requested the government to bestow the prestigious award to Dhyan Chand. In fact, we have been requesting the government for decades. I still remember after Sachin was conferred with the honour, we had taken out a procession from the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Barakhamba traffic crossing to Jantar Mantar and we also sat down at the Jantar Mantar also for quite some time just to remind the government,” said Iqbal, who himself has been awarded with the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award.

“Even before Sachin was considered for Bharat Ratna, Dhyan Chand’s file had moved from sports ministry to the PMO. But his file could not be processed further. I remember there was an opinion poll to decide which sportsperson should be given the Bharat Ratna. And a majority of the people voted for Dhyan Chand. In fact both him and Sachin could have been conferred with the award. It would not have created any controversy,” he added.

Dhyan Chand was part of three gold medal-winning Indian teams at the Olympics — in Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin, where he was the captain. For two decades until he bid goodbye to international hockey in 1948, Dhyan Chand’s name was synonymous with the sport as he played numerous matches and scored hundreds of goals.

The National Sports Day is observed in his honour every year in the country on August 29.

Iqbal, under whose leadership India won bronze medal at the Champions Trophy 1982 in Holland, said Dhyan Chand — even though he didn’t get the Bharat Ratna — will still remain a legend known for his “magical game”.

“My personal feeling is that even though he didn’t get Bharat Ratna, he will still remain a legend. His contribution to the country in the field of hockey is immense and something which we are very proud of. He is recognised by his game and not by Bharat Ratna,” said Iqbal.

“Same is the case with Sachin. He is known for his game, not by just Bharat Ratna. Sportspersons are known for their game not by awards,” he added.

Asked about the chances of Dhyan Chand getting Bharat Ratna in the near future, Iqbal said: “I don’t know. It can be done within seconds. If someone sends a message to the Prime Minister that Dhyan Chand deserves the award, it can be done within seconds. Otherwise, just like in the past, it can go on for years.”

“We are still trying and we have been proposing his name for the Bharat Ratna from different sources. However, sometimes our feelings do get hurt and we wonder what’s the use of requesting the government,” he added.

The 64-year-old further said that Dhyan Chand, who died in 1979 at the age of 74, was a very simple, humble and down to earth man who didn’t run after money.

“He was the simplest man I would say in sporting history. He never asked for any money or boast about himself. I was lucky to have a chat with him. We used to stay in the same colony in Vasant Vihar. We often chatted.”

Recalling an incident from 1978, Iqbal revealed how Dhyan Chand, his son Ashok Kumar and he travelled in a general compartment of the Indian railways from Delhi to Jhansi.

“In 1978, we travelled with him from Delhi to Jhansi. Ashok was also there. We had to play a match there. We got into a third class (general compartment) and it was fully packed. There was no place to sit. Dhyan Chand, however, kept standing and didn’t say anything to anyone. After some time, we requested a person to offer us a place to sit. Such was his simplicity,” said Iqbal.

“We didn’t have enough money to travel by first class. But Dhyan Chand never created any fuss,” he added.

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BCCI wants Dravid to be India’s chief coach; sources say Rahul’s ‘agreed but…!’





 Former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid has agreed to coach the national side after the ICC T20 World Cup but there are a couple of issues which he wants to be sorted out before joining, said a BCCI official.

Earlier, there were reports that Dravid would be the interim coach for the upcoming home series against New Zealand.

However, the BCCI official has now confirmed that “Rahul has agreed to coach the Indian team till 2023 World Cup”.

The official told IANS that BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah had a meeting with Dravid on the side-lines of the IPL final on Friday evening and they managed to convince him.

“There are a couple of issues which Dravid wants to settle with the BCCI and hopefully that will be done,” he added.

Asked what are the “issues”, the official said, “Like, Dravid wants to have new support staff… changing the entire old one. And a couple of other things. I am sure everything will be sorted out. Because BCCI wants Dravid to lead the charge.”

It is learnt that former Mumbai pacer Paras Mhambrey may take over from Bharat Arun as the bowling coach.

Sources further said that Dravid had suggested Australian Tom Moody’s name for the coach’s job, but the Board didn’t show too much interest.

The 48-year-old Dravid has been in charge of the India A and U-19 set-up for the past six years. He currently heads the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

“He will resign from there and take over the charge (of Team India),” sources added.

Dravid had recently coached a second-string Indian team to a tour of Sri Lanka even as the national senior team was playing concurrently in England.

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Dhoni is still non-committal on playing IPL next season





 Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni did not commit to playing another season in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the team from Tamil Nadu though he did say that he was not done with the World’s richest T20 tournament.

Though Dhoni maintained that whether he continues to play or not depends on the decisions the BCCI takes regarding player retention when two more teams join the league next year, the 40-year-old said he has not left any legacy behind as of yet.

“Still I haven’t left behind….” he signed off during the prize distribution ceremony after CSK beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs to lift their fourth IPL title.

“Again I’ve said it before, it depends on BCCI. With two new teams coming in. We have to decide what is good for CSK. It’s not about me being there in top-three or four. It’s about making a strong core to ensure the franchise doesn’t suffer. The core group, we have to have a hard look to see who can contribute for the next 10 years,” said Dhoni on Friday.

CSK set up a big target and then defended it successfully, keeping their nerves even when Kolkata Knight Riders openers Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer and given KKR a great start by putting on 91 runs for the first wicket. There was no panic in CSK ranks and the players went about performing their roles as things just fell in place.

Dhoni said they don’t plan or strategise too much before the game and the net sessions are more of one-on-one sessions.

“Frankly no chats, we don’t talk a lot [meetings]. It’s more one-on-one, our practice sessions are meeting sessions. The moment you get into a team room, it brings about different pressure. Our practice sessions hav” been good,” Dhoni said, adding that the chat sessions don’t last more than 29 minutes as that’s the attention span for a normal person.

About his team’s performance, Dhoni said that they shuffled players around after the first half and that paid for them. “Coming to CSK, we shuffled players. We had match winners coming game after game and doing really well. Every final is special, if you look at stats, we may say we’re the most consistent team to lose the final too. I feel it’s important to come back strong, especially in the knockouts,” Dhoni added.

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IPL 2021: Extremely grateful, feels amazing to be part of CSK, says Uthappa




Chennai Super Kings. (Photo: Twitter/@ChennaiIPL)

After Chennai Super Kings (CSK) won their fourth IPL trophy, star batsman Robin Uthappa on Friday said that he is extremely grateful and it feels amazing to be part of MS Dhoni-led side, especially how last year went for them.

CSK beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs in the IPL 2021 final and lifted their fourth IPL title. CSK had earlier won three IPL titles in 2010, 2011, and 2018.

“Extremely grateful, it feels amazing to be part of this side, especially how last year went for us. It was a very lean season for us last year and so it was important for us to come back and play as well as we could and be really grateful that we have been able to,” said Robin Uthappa after the win.

“I just want to come in and contribute to the team’s success,” he added.

Talking about the environment in the CSK group, the stylish batsman said that there is a lot of clarity.

“They create a very secure environment within the group and there’s a lot of clarity and communication within the support staff and the players and that really helps in building a secure group,” said Uthappa, who performed well with the bat for CSK in the last two matches.

“I believe it’s your players who are not playing in the eleven that really create the atmosphere within the group and they make sure that they look after the players who are not playing in the eleven and I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways of our success in IPL,” he added.

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