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10 facts you may not know about Indian hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay

Modern day Indian hockey's biggest hero Dhanraj Pillay turned 48 recently.

Dhanraj Pillay
Dhanraj Pillay grew into the quintessential superstar of Hockey in India

Any hockey player who has hogged the  limelight among fans and media after Major Dhyan Chand is Indian hockey legend, Dhanraj Pillay. Born on 15th July 1968, Dhanraj Pillay yesterday celebrated his 48th birthday with fans all over India wishing him on his birthday. Even the current generation of hockey players was not left behind as Yuvraj Walmiki was among the first one to wish Dhanraj  on his birthday, calling him his idol and mentor.

Meanwhile, Sreejesh posted a photo of him carrying Dhanraj.

As he turns 48, here are 10 facts you may not know about hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay:

1. Born in Khadki near Pune, Dhanraj Pillay was from a humble background and spent his early hockey life with broken sticks which were then fixed with gum and sutli (gunny-sack strings). He played his early hockey in the Ordinance Factory staff colony where his father was a groundsman.

2. While it is widely said that Dhanraj Pillay moved to Mumbai after being asked by his brother, the real reason for his movement was that he moved to Mumbai after fearing police. In Khadki, Dhanraj Pillay once landed in a fight and after fearing that police might arrest him, he moved to Mumbai with his brother.

3. Dhanraj Pillay is the only Indian to play in 4 Olympics, 4 World Cups, 4 Champions Trophy and 4 Asian Games. Under his captaincy, India won the 1998 Asian Games and the 2003 World Cup, establishing a record in Indian hockey.

4. Always known as a confident player on and off the field, Dhanraj, surprisingly refused to take a penalty stroke in the finals of 1998 Asian Games (he was captain of the side) as he was not feeling comfortable.

5. In the same match, goalkeeper Ashish Ballal had been dropped after a disastrous first half but on Dhanraj’s nod he once again took his place between the sticks for the penalty strokes. Ashish Ballal then went to save crucial penalty strokes to give India a memorable victory after 32 years. After the match ended, Dhanraj went straight to Ashish and asked, “Ab to maaf kiya na tune?” (Hope you have forgiven me now?) talking about the incident where was instrumental in getting Ashish Ballal dropped for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics squad.

6. Apart from India, he has a great fan following in Malaysia as well and is always mobbed by fans when he is in Malaysia. Interestingly, Malaysia has always been his happy hunting ground.

7. Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon have formed a great partnership over the years running the midfield show, but off the field, there were never friends with the duo always at at odds with each other. Such was animosity among the players that once they had a fist fight but being thorough professionals, they never allowed their personal matter affect the team.

8. Dhanraj Pillay  has been seen lashing out on his fellow players many times questioning their performances but he was also most loved players of all.

9. During his birthday in 2003, the team got together and got him a hockey stick shaped Gold ring. Dhanraj was emotional on the day but also happy that his birthday he could celebrate the occasion with his hockey family.

10. Dhanraj Pillay was named as player of the tournament in 2002 Champions Trophy in Cologne. In his last game for India in 2004 Athens Olympics, he was just given playing time of 2 mins 55 secs by then coach Gerhard Rach. This attitude of the coach really broke Dhanraj Pillay down and is considered to be as the worst sendoff given to a player of his caliber.

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