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Dhyan Chand most deserving sportsperson for Bharat Ratna: Zafar Iqbal

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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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National

Ravi Shastri calls for reduction in number of T20Is played to counter scheduling issues

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Former India head coach Ravi Shastri has called for a reduction in the number of T20Is played to counter the raging issue of scheduling in international cricket. The month of July 2022 has seen the issue of hectic scheduling in cricket and prioritisation of franchise T20 leagues being reignited.

South Africa chose to pull out of a three-match ODI series against Australia in January 2023 to ensure their players would be available for the upcoming new domestic T20 competition in the country.

Earlier this week, England’s Test skipper and all-rounder Ben Stokes announced his retirement from ODI cricket after the first match against South Africa at the age of 31, citing the “unsustainable” workload by playing in all three formats.

With speculations coming that the upcoming Future Tours Programme (FTP) for the 2023-27 cycle will have more of T20I action, Shastri, currently in United Kingdom as a member of the Sky Sports commentary team, feels that bilateral T20Is should be reduced by a huge amount to free up the hectic international calendar.

“I would be a little careful of the number of bilateral splits, especially in T20 cricket. There’s a lot of franchise cricket which can be encouraged, whichever country it’s in – India, West Indies, or Pakistan. You play less bilaterals and then you get together for the World Cups. So, the emphasis on ICC World Cup events becomes paramount. Then people look forward to them,” said Shastri in an episode of the Vaughany and Tuffers podcast.

Shastri, a former India all-rounder and member of the 1983 Cricket World Cup winning team, further asked for creation of two divisions in Test cricket in a bid to safeguard the future of the longest format of the game.

“I think two tiers are needed, otherwise Test cricket will die in 10 years time. You need six teams at the top, and then six teams in the second and then you qualify. And those top six play against each other more often because of the corridor you open up by having less bilateral T20 cricket and just franchise cricket. That’s the way all formats of the game can survive.”

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Nation needs President who can protect constitution: Yashwant Sinha

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 Joint opposition candidate for Presidential poll, Yashwant Sinha on Friday said the nation needs a president who can protect the Constitution of the country.

Sinha was in Gujarat to seek support for himself. He appealed to the MLAs and MPs to vote for the candidate “who can protect the Constituency of India”.

He said the nation was passing through a serious constitutional and economic crises and at such a point of time the nation needs a president who does not toe the party line at the cost of national interest.

“There is an undeclared emergency in the country, even the media does not have the liberty to practice the profession freely when a check and balance is must for the country. So MLAs and MPs should vote in accordance with their conscience,” said sinha.

The former minister said he was confident of getting votes of the MLAs and MPs belonging to the Congress, BTP and NCP in the state.

He said he disagreed with the political theory that if a person is from a specific community and one holds a constitutional post it helps in uplifting the community. Citing the example of NDA presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu, he said,”They are projecting her as a tribal representative, she was the Governor of Jharkhand for six year, yet tribals’ conditions have not improved.”

“Though Ram Nath Kovind was president, see the condition of the community in his state. Nothing has changed, on the contrary they have suffered a lot,” said Sinha.

He, however, made it clear that he did not mean that a person should confront the central government.

He said, “Communalism is spreading because the state is backing it because communalism is consolidating the vote bank for them.”

Sinha said he was shocked to find that even today section 144 is implemented in Gujarat and questioned the state who it was afraid of. He said, “Even for social functions or events the people of Gujarat are asked to seek permission which is anti democracy.”

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I have seen glimpses of what this hockey team can achieve: Women’s coach Schopman

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India women’s hockey team chief coach Janneke Schopman has said she has “seen glimpses” of what her players can achieve following her side’s 3-4 loss in a hard-fought Pool B match of the FIH World Cup 2022 against New Zealand here late on Thursday.

Despite going down to the Kiwis, India are still in contention for a quarterfinal spot after finishing third in their pool. They will face Spain, who finished second in Pool C, in the crossover match on July 10 for a place in the last-eight.

Schopman also attributed the loss to New Zealand to defensive frailties and the rivals’ clinical finishes.

“I am proud of our fight as we worked really hard to stay in the game. Unfortunately, we made some defensive mistakes and New Zealand were very clinical in their finish,” said Schopman.

“There are a lot of things to learn from this game but I have seen glimpses of what we can do. Especially, our performance in the second half showed that we can play some good hockey,” she added.

For India, Vandana Katariya (4th munite), Lalremsiami (44th) and Gurjit Kaur (59th) were on target. The Indian team started the game aggressively and put pressure on their opponents in the opening minutes of the match.

But the Kiwis fought back after they earned a penalty corner and Olivia Merry didn’t miss out on the opportunity of slotting the ball into the goal in the 12th minute.

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