Salute Sir Edwin Lutyens for creating a paradise for sportsmen. The residential areas he carved out as the Delhi Imperial Zone were judiciously left with sufficient open spaces to kick around and when utilized resulted in the surfacing of scores of outstanding sportsmen in the decade before Independence and right afterwards and the time could be rated as the brightest chapter in the history of Delhi sports.
Joginder Singh, just 'Gindi' to the hockey fraternity, mastered the art of stickwork at the Lady Hardinge ground close to his residence and scaled Olympic heights. Lawrence Square's Hari Chand, who led Delhi to victory in the 1942 National Championship, could be seen training at the Talkatora ground. Darshan Singh Sodhi, a qualified umpire who played and nursed Khalsa Blues and was the secretary of the Delhi hockey Association, stayed in Wilson Square.
Bawa Jaswant Singh, the versatile booster in the Indian volleyball team who competed in the first Asian Chamiponship at Tokyo in 1995, was reared on the city's open spaces. Paharganj resident Gurdev Singh was another prominent figure in the volleyball circuit who captained India and played in the 1952 World Championship and the '55 Asian Championships.
Football feats were performed which have not been emulated since then. Two of the players from this zone helped Delhi score their lone triumph in the Santosh Trophy in 1944. Goal-getter Mohinder Pal and powerful shooter Trilok Nath Lau were products from Clive Square. Amba Pershad Suri and Vidya Prakash Suri were top class players while Bhawani Banerjee from Havelok Square was known for his stinging left-footers and was a member of the '44 Santosh Trophy winning squad. Ram Murti Sharma from Edmund Square led Delhi champions New Delhi Heroes to the Afghan Independence celebrations in Kabul in 1954. The Handa brothers also hailed from the same square.
Ample playing opportunities were available at the two grounds close to the Madras Hotel. Half of it was lost to a bus terminus while the other half is occupied by the Shivaji Stadium which is a venue only for major sporting activities. But where all of today's imposing structures are extremely useful for mega events to enhance the country's image, open spaces will always continue to matter for athletes from the grassroots.