Dhanraj Pillay: A magician with a hockey stick


Forever uncompromising, the former Indian hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay was born on the 16th of July 1968 at Khadki, a small town near Pune, which is not known to many.Pillay, a magician with a hockey stick, is unarguably one of the best forwards to have taken the field of hockey for the country. At the age of 21, Pillay made his debut in international hockey in 1989 when he represented the nation in the Allwyn Asia Cup in New Delhi.Born in a Tamil family, Pillay took up the sport at a very young age and started playing in the Ordnance Factory staff colony where his father was a groundsman.The talented boy idolised the style of legendary forward Mohammad Shahid while playing in the soft and muddy surface of OFK ground where he enhanced his skills and learnt the art of stick work with broken ones.Pillay credits all his success to his mother, who encouraged him right from his young age even when the family was going through a tough phase financially. There were even times where they would not know what to do for their next meal.In his career spanning over 15 years, Dharaj Pillay has scored the most number goals for India although the Indian Hockey Federation did not keep official statistics for the goals he scored.He remains the only player to have represented the country on four different occasions in the Olympics along with four World Cups and four Champions Trophy appearances.India won the Asian Games (1998) and Asia Cup (2003) under his captaincy and he became the only Indian player to feature in the World Eleven side during the 1994 World Cup at Sydney.Pillay has received the highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for the year 1999-2000 and was awarded the Padma Shri, a civilian award in 2000.One of the greats of the game, Pillay now plans to open a hockey academy where he can nurture young talent from the grass root level and give something back to the sport which has made him a national hero. Pillay wants to inspire a million people to take up the sport which is in dire straits at the moment.Always known as a rebel, Pillay vented his wrath against the Hockey Management for an improper reception and non-payment of match-fees after the triumph at the Bangkok Asiad. He had to pay a heavy price for it as he was left out from the Indian team after the incident.Whatever said and done, Dhanraj Pillay will be forever remembered for his graceful stick work, which can entice a hockey lover to go miles and watch him play. 

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