Hockey has a long and rich history in India. It was once the national sport of the country and Indians have dominated the game at both the international and Olympic levels for decades. While the popularity of hockey has declined in recent years compared to cricket, the sport still holds a special place in Indian culture and there remains a strong tradition of excellence. In this article, we will profile the top 10 best and most famous field hockey players that India has produced.
Widely considered one of the greatest drag flickers of all time, Sandeep Singh is a former Indian hockey player who played as a forward. He was known for his powerful hits and accuracy from penalty corners and helped India win numerous tournaments throughout his career including the Asian Games gold in 2010 and 2014 as well as the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011. Singh scored over 100 goals for India in over 200 matches played. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2012 for his contributions to the sport.
A midfielder who captained the Indian national team, Sardar Singh is regarded as one of the most influential hockey players the country has seen. Under his leadership from 2008-2014, India won gold at the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 as well as the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011 and 2012. Singh was known for his vision, ball control, and passing ability. He played over 250 matches for India and was named the FIH Player of the Year in 2010. Singh retired from international hockey in 2017.
Currently the captain of the Indian national team, PR Sreejesh is widely considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He has represented India at three Olympic Games in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Sreejesh was instrumental in India’s bronze medal victory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, making several crucial saves throughout the tournament. He has won numerous accolades including the World Games Athlete of the Year in 2021. With over 240 caps, Sreejesh continues to be India’s first-choice goalkeeper and a rock at the back of the defense.
A versatile forward and midfielder, Pargat Singh was a key member of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1980 and 1982 Moscow Olympics as well as the 1982 World Cup. He scored an important goal in the final of the 1982 Asian Games which India won. Singh was known for his speed, ball control, and goal-scoring abilities. He played over 170 matches for India between 1979-1987 before retiring. Singh received the Arjuna Award in 1981 and Padma Shri in 1983 for his outstanding contributions to Indian hockey.
A defender and midfielder, Leslie Claudius represented India between 1960-1975 and was captain from 1971-1975. He was a member of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1964 and 1968 Tokyo Olympics as well as the 1971 and 1973 World Cups. Claudius was known for his leadership skills and tough tackling abilities. He received the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award for his achievements in hockey. Even after retiring, Claudius continued to serve Indian hockey in various coaching and administrative roles. He is considered one of the best defenders to have played for India.
A forward who played for India between 1928-1936, Udham Singh was part of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics as well as the 1930 and 1934 Asian Games. He scored numerous goals throughout his international career including a hat-trick in the final of the 1934 Asian Games. Singh was known for his dribbling skills, ball control, and finishing abilities. He received the Padma Shri posthumously in 1956 for his contributions to Indian hockey. Singh remains one of the most prolific goalscorers in the early days of Indian hockey.
Widely regarded as one of the best forwards to have played the game, Dhanraj Pillay represented India between 1988-2004, appearing in four Olympics and winning gold at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. He held the men’s record for most international caps (346) until it was broken in 2021. Pillay was known for his speed, ball control, and goal-scoring abilities. He received the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award for his outstanding career. Even after retiring, Pillay continues to promote and develop the sport of hockey in India.
A midfielder and forward, Mohammad Shahid was a member of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics as well as the 1982 Asian Games. He scored important goals throughout his career including in the finals of the 1980 Olympics and 1982 Asian Games. Shahid was known for his dribbling skills, ball control, vision, and passing abilities in the midfield. He received the Arjuna Award in 1981 for his achievements in hockey. Shahid played over 150 matches for India between 1977-1987 before retiring.
Balbir Singh Sr.
Widely regarded as India’s greatest hockey player of all time, Balbir Singh Sr. represented India in three Olympics between 1948-1956, winning three consecutive gold medals in 1948, 1952, and 1956. He was the team’s captain and top scorer in the 1952 Olympics. Singh was known for his leadership skills, ball control, dribbling abilities, and goal-scoring record of over 400 goals in a 14-year international career. He received the Padma Shri in 1957 and Padma Bhushan in 1956 for his unparalleled achievements in hockey. Singh remains the only Indian among 16 athletes to have won three Olympic gold medals.
Considered the greatest hockey player of all time, Dhyan Chand represented India as a centre-forward between 1926-1949. He was part of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1928, 1932, and 1936 Olympics as well as the 1930 and 1934 Asian Games. Chand was known for his incredible ball control, goal-scoring skills, and mesmerizing dribbling abilities. He scored over 400 goals in his career for India. Chand received the Padma Bhushan in 1956 for his contributions to Indian hockey. He is still revered as “The Wizard” for his magical skills with the stick.
In conclusion, while hockey may no longer dominate the sporting landscape in India like it once did, these legendary players show the immense talent and excellence the country has produced in the sport over decades. Their achievements and the tradition of success they established continue to inspire future generations of Indian hockey players. Many of them remain household names in India and icons of the game even today. They played a major role in establishing India as a dominant force in international field hockey.