New Delhi: As the clamour for Sachin Tendulkar to be bestowed with the country's highest civilian award - the Bharat Ratna - grows louder, former hockey Olympians felt that legendary Dhyanchand deserves it more than the batting icon.
Emphasising upon the achievements of the legendary hockey player, national selector Col Balbir Singh said that Dhayanchand was the all-time best which the sport has seen and should have been graced with the honour many years before.
"In my opinion, Dhyanchand should have received this award many years back. He is the most deserving sportsperson to get it and there is no second opinion about it," Balbir told PTI Bhasha from Jalandhar.
Veteran Zafar Iqbal, who was a part of the Indian hockey team that won the last of eight gold medals in Moscow, agreed with Balbir and insisted that Dhyanchand's contribution is huge keeping in mind the global reach of the sport in comparison to cricket.
Comparing the achievements of the two greats, Iqbal said, "Tendulkar has won just one World cup while Dhyanchand was instrumental in India's gold medal finish in three Olympics - 1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin."
The member of 1975 Kuala Lumpur World Cup-winning Indian team, Aslam Sher Khan said that there is no official record of the number of goals Dhyanchand has scored but that does not undermine his contribution.
"There is no official record of his goals. In hockey, it is almost impossible to find record of goals whereas in cricket you have a proper system of keeping records. Nobody actually knows how many international goals Dhyanchand scored," Khan emphasised.
"Cricket has become big because of glamour and money attached with it. But if the consideration is for Bharat Ratna, then you cannot ignore a player who brought laurels to the country while going through a financial turmoil.
"Sachin is a very good person and the best cricketer India has ever produced but if any sportsperson is considered for Bharat Ratna, Dhyanchand is miles ahead," he added.
Dhayanchand is the only hockey player to have been awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956.