By Arpita Gulyani
Roop Singh Bais won his two gold medals together with his brother, [Dhyan Chand], and is usually considered the best inside left of all-time. He was famous for his stick-work, hard hitting, and penalty corners. Singh scored 13 goals in the two games he played at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. A stadium in his hometown city of Gwalior was named after him. After the 1936 Olympic final a street in Berlin was also named for him, as well as a street at the Olympic Park in 1972. Singh was among three Indian players to have tube stations in London re-named for them prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Singh belonged to the Bais Rajputs, a clan of wealthy landowners and liked to live and dress stylishly. As an officer he served in the Army of Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia. Captain Roop Singh himself is considered as one of the greatest hockey players of all times.
Roop Singh was the best inside-left (Left-in Position) India has ever produced. His stick work along with powerful hit gave the Indian team much advantage in winning the matches as was his penalty shots. His power, anticipation and stick work were all superb. He was a complete hockey player. There were times when Dhyan Chand (Singh) used to warn him to be careful with his hit otherwise someone could get injured. Dhyan Chand (Singh), a doyen of Indian hockey, once said about Roop Singh that he was the only inside-left he had seen scoring goals from the crosses sent by the outside-left. Like his hits, Roop Singh’s penalty corner shots too were powerful.
Dhyan Chand is one of the first names on the lips of all and sundry, whenever the topic of India’s pre-Independence sporting heroes comes up. It is with good reasons that there have been many hues and cries from the current sports’ fraternity, who want the Government to award the Indian hockey hero with a posthumous Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in the country.
However, nobody dared to disrespect the great Roop Singh by removing his name.
This, however, is not the only recognition that Roop Singh has in the world.
The Germans were so impressed with his performance during India’s gold medal campaign in Berlin 1936, that they have even named a street in Munich after him. Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, a tube station in the city was also named after him. Unlike his brother, Roop Singh did not have a long and prosperous career in hockey, with the onset of the Second World War. He later took up a job in the personal staff of the then royalty of Gwalior, Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia.
However, independent India spelt doom for this hockey great who later had to reportedly take up a menial job, in order to support his large family, which consisted of his 12 children.
Roop Singh, one of the best sons of Indian hockey, ultimately passed away in 1977, at the age of 69, in poverty.