Witnessing the horrendous reality of the game he once graced, from a rented house in a fading Kolkata locality might be the toughest thing to have happened ever for this man and perhaps, to every Hockey fanatic of the nation. There lived a man by the name Leslie Walter Claudius, born 6 days before the end of March, two decades before the Nation’s Independence, who with his legendary Hockey stick, produced wonders in his sporting days.
Heartfelt thanks to the Beighton Cup Hockey Tournament, the oldest tournament of the sport in the nation, for introducing this legend into a vacant right-half position in 1946. He made the position his own, making him one of the finest, greatest and the most precious players the game has ever seen and from that position, he took an entry into the game. Bold in pass selections, calm under mounting pressure, intelligent with the hockey stick, intriguing and irritating the opponents with his knack and dexterity, this legend went on to become a precious weapon for the nation and was part of a team from that won 3 Gold medals and 1 Silver medal in the glorious history of Indian hockey.
If records ever contribute to one’s greatness, this man had his share too. His greatness is apparent in the fact that he holds the Guinness world record along with another legend Udham Singh for the most number of Olympic Medals, 3 Gold and 1 Silver. Unthinkable, yet unassailable. Meet him now, and one will find the indignation and resentment in his face and harsh words towards Hockey’s reality, towards that of having a foreign coach for his national team when Ashok Kumar, Mohammad Shahid and Dhanraj Pillay are still around the corner and available for the national duty, showing his passion and adulation towards the game. However, his famous words in a rather uneasy tone, “We taught the world how to play and they are now teaching us”, surely reflect the pathetic reality of the game in the nation.
Leslie Cladius shares a rare distinction of being one of the only 3 Indians along with the Hockey’s immortal – Dhyan Chand and his brother Roop Singh, for having named the London underground metro train stations after them. Frankly, rare jewels like him must be respected and honoured. Time will move on and reality will shift shapes. Let us hope things change from bad to good soon and that this legends’ wish of a national coach from our soil and the game’s glory be visualized at the earliest. I sum up the above by the lines from the legend himself.
“Those were the days. On grass, you could slip the stick under the ball which helped our dribbling style. Astroturf has killed that.”
Respect to the legend!