At Adelaide on May 2, 1935, Don Bradman (left, © Getty Images) met Dhyan Chand (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) for the only time in their lives.

At Adelaide on May 2, 1935, Don Bradman met Dhyan Chand for the only time in their lives. This rendezvous between the two greatest sportsmen of the era remains a mysteriously forgotten incident. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the first magical moment in Indo-Australian sport relationship.

“Some people call Dhyan Chand the Don Bradman of hockey, but I prefer to call Don Bradman the Dhyan Chand of cricket. Don Bradman has been compared with other cricket players. But Dhyan Chand cannot be compared with any other hockey player.” — Pankaj Gupta, Assistant Manager of Indian Hockey Team, 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Dhyan Chand was the first Indian sportsman to capture the imagination of the world. Play had been stopped to check whether he had applied glue to his hockey-stick (in Tokyo) or there was a magnet inside (in Netherlands); he had gone without a goal in a match and complained that the goalpost was smaller than the regulatory measurement, and to everybody’s astonishment, proved to be right; and the awestruck Austrians had erected a statue of him at Vienna to depict his wizardry: the statue is endowed with four arms and four sticks.

[Note: The oft-repeated tale of Hitler offering Dhyan Chand the post of a Colonel and a German passport remains unverified.]

One can go on for pages on the legend, but this, unfortunately, is a cricket website, so let us revert to the incident in question.

India toured Australia and New Zealand before the 1936 Olympics at Berlin. They took the usual detour, via Perth. The hosts provided tough fight till half-time, trailing by 2-3. Thereafter India ran rout, clinching the match 11-2. Dhyan Chand himself accounted for 6 of the goals.

There was also a match scheduled at The Adelaide Oval, and Dhyan Chand wanted to meet Don Bradman. He approached Gupta, Assistant Manager of the side. Gupta, in turn, asked Sir Jonathan Cain, Lord Mayor of Adelaide, whether Bradman could be at the ground during the match.

Before that, however, Bradman visited the Adelaide Town Hall and was photographed with the Indian team. He was generous in praise of the Indian hockey team: “I am particularly glad to welcome the Indian players as they are better exponents of the game of hockey than we are. We will have the opportunity of learning something from them. I hope that this visit will be the forerunner of a visit from an Indian cricket team.”

Behram Doctor, Manager of the Indian team, then said: “We stand at the top of the ladder in hockey, and you stand at the top of the ladder in cricket. We are very glad that in Adelaide the wizard of hockey, our captain, Dhyan Chand, should meet the wizard of cricket, Don Bradman.”

Adelaide News mentioned that “amid applause, Bradman and Chand, who were sitting near one another, rose and shook hands.”

The Don had never been to a hockey match before, and was taken aback by the Hockey Houdini’s on-field surreal sorcery. He went up to Chand and complimented him with the famous words: “You score goals like runs in cricket.”  He had a reason to be impressed, for India thrashed South Australia 10-1 (they led 7-0 in the first half). Dhyan Chand scored twice, including the first goal.

The Wizard from Allahabad, too, had fond memories of the rendezvous. In Goal, his autobiography, Dhyan Chand wrote: “We were delighted to meet him. Don posed for a photograph with us, a photograph that I will cherish all my life.” To quote Bharatiya Hockey, “Years later, Chand would rate his appointment as the 1936 Berlin Olympics captain and his meeting with Don Bradman as the two most exciting moments of his life.”

It is the mediocre that lives a life of false vanity and stoop to throwing stones at others. Legends do not. That, perhaps, is what make them legends.

Brief scores:

India 10 (Dhyan Chand 2, Roop Singh 4, Lourie Davidson 3, Peter Fernandes) beat South Australia 1 (O’Connor).


Victoria were thrashed 15-4; Metropolitan XI, Sydney, 11-4. After a detour of New Zealand (India won the Test series 3-0), India routed Australia 12-1 in the only Test, on August 16. Dhyan Chand scoring 9 goals in the match, and his brother Roop Singh 3.

Postscript 2:

After the Berlin Olympics, the Indian team were returning home via London. A cricketer was passing them in his car. He immediately got down and got photographed with Dhyan Chand and Roop Singh (whose 10 goals against USA in the Los Angeles is a part of hockey folklore). On board The Strathmore back home, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi was a fellow passenger. The fact that Dhyan Chand met Bradman, Jardine, and Pataudi — iconic characters from the Bodyline series — on the same tour, is remarkable.

Postscript 3 (the anticlimax):

Also travelling on The Strathmore was Vizzy…

A sad footnote:

Unfortunately, no known photograph of the two legends together exists.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)