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Shankar Laxman -- the hockey legend who died unsung

By Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Shankar Laxman, the hockey goalkeeper who stood between Gold for India and brutal Pakistan onslaughts in the finals of 1964 Tokyo Olympics and 1966 Bangkok Asian Games today died at Mhow uncared and unsung.

Laxman represented India in three successive Olympics -- 1956, '60 and '64 and then led the country to Gold in the Bangkok Asian Games two years later.

Born at Mhow (Madhya Pradesh) on July 7, 1933, Shankar Laxman joined the army after passing his higher secondary from a local school. He rose to become Honorary Captain in the Maratha Light Infantry from where he retired in 1979.

Shankar started his carrer in 1955 playing for Services and earned kudos for his daredevil goalkeeping.

He represented India in three successive Olympics beginning 1956 when India, under Balbir Singh, won the Gold by defeating Pakistan.

He was the goalkeeper when India, for the first time, lost the Olympic title to Pakistan in I960. He played his last Olympics under the leadership of Charanjit Singh in 1964 in Tokyo where India defeated Pakistan to win back the title and he was the only player from the victorious team chosen to receive the coveted Arjuna Award that year.

He figured in three Asian Games starting 1958 when hockey was first introduced in the Asiad in Tokyo. He was again there to defend the goal in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta. He captained the team in the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok and for his glorious contribution was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1967.

Despite his superb showings, Laxman was treated shabilly by the Indian Hockey Federation and was stunned and shocked when he was dropped from the squad for 1968 Mexico Olympics.

This led to a strong protests and IHF decided to recall him.

It was a case of too little and too late and he, as a sportsperson of strong convictions, declined the offer saying that he has been out of practice. The rest, as they say, is history and India slipped to the third place at Mexico and Indian hockey was never the same again.

Laxman was described by his rivals as the ''Rock of Gibraltor'' as they found it very tough to beat him.

The man who brought laurels for the country struggled for treatment in the later stages of his life with no help coming from either IHF or the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) or the the Sports Ministry.

The governments, both state and centre, are lavish in spending money on cricketers but had no funds for this great sportsperson who saved India blushes with some scintillating performances in the international tournament.

Laxman's 13 year's of illustrious career was worth only Rs 25,000. Yes, this was the amount he received from the state government towards his treatment.

And the less said about the IHF the better. Laxman deserved much better fate. The way he spent his last days in great agony and pain and without any financial help will remain a black spot on the name of the game in the country.

UNI HSB AY PC1845

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