The journey of Dhanraj Pillay, one of the best hockey players India has produced till date, was not a smooth sail. The former athlete used to live in the Ordnance Factory staff colony in Pune where he learnt playing with a broken hockey stick in his childhood.
Born on July 16, 1968, the former Captain of Indian Hockey team did not hail from a wealthy family and thus naturally had no money to spend on hockey sticks and balls. He was given the name ‘Dhanraj’ by his parents in the hope that he would bring them fame and money. After several years, Dhanraj made their expectations a reality.
Dhanraj credits his success in hockey to his mother. The player made his debut in the Asia Cup held in Delhi in 1989 and never looked back again. He played for Indian National Hockey team until 2004 winning countless accolades. In the 15 years, Pillay scored an impressive 170 goals in 339 matches too.
Pillay’s consistency to remain at the top of the game is appreciated the most. The now 53-year-old played in four Olympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004), four World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002), four Champions Trophy (1995, 1996, 2002, 2003), and four Asian Games (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002). He is the only player in the world to feature in so many tournaments.
Pillay, later in his career, captained the team which won several tournaments. During his playing career, he won three gold medals and five silver medals.
His legacy in Indian hockey won’t be easily forgotten. And as they say, ‘He came, He saw, He conquered,’ that was the case with Pillay too, India’s gem who will inspire several generations for years to come.