Nowadays, India bends over backwards to hire foreign coaches for national hockey teams, offering them better pay packages compared to other disciplines.
Former Australian Olympian Terry Walsh will now be paid Australian $12,000 (Rs 7.4 lakh) per month, $1000 more than what his predecessor and countryman Michael Nobbs got.
However, about six decades ago when Australia hosted the Olympics, it offered a mere Australian £25 per week to Major Dhyan Chand!
The writer is in possession of a copy of the letter written by JH Powell, then honorary general-secretary of the Australian Hockey Association (AHA), who approached General KM Cariappa to acquire the services of the legendary player for preparing the Australian men’s team for the Melbourne Olympics.
General Cariappa, who was the Indian Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, was approached by Powell when he visited Melbourne in early 1956.
The General, whose regiment clashed with Dhyan Chand’s Punjab Regiment in the annual Military Hockey Cup, was an admirer, and he took the liberty of discussing the terms and conditions of Dhyan Chand’s appointment as the Australian national team’s first foreign coach.
Travel and costs
According to the letter dated April 14, 1956, AHA was prepared to pay Major Dhyan Chand A£25 per week from the date of his leaving his home until his return, plus “reasonable first-class sea travel to Melbourne”, “accommodation in private homes and/or the Olympic Village during his stay in Melbourne”.
Though they played international hockey in the early 1920s, Australia did not participate in the Olympics till the mega event came home.
They lacked confidence, and to an extent the resources and logistics, to take up competitive hockey till then.
When compelled to participate in the Olympics, Australia turned to the best hockey player the world had produced for help. However, Dhyan Chand did not take up the assignment as the process got halted by bureaucratic red tape.
Australia owe their rise in world hockey to Anglo-Indians who arrived in Western Australia in large numbers after India’s independence. They spotted and motivated local talent and helped them sparkle.
Once the plan to rope in Dhyan Chand did not work out, AHA appointed Fred Browne, a La Martiniere College (Lucknow) alma mater, as Olympic coach. Browne fielded five Anglo-Indians in the team and got Australia their first Olympic hockey bronze.
The writer is a hockey historian