Darshan Singh Kullar

Darshan Singh Kullar who represented India in Olympics , Asian Games and other Internationals from 1959-64 with distinction is another Jewel in the shining crown of Sansarpur hockey . He is now settled in England but has not severed his links with the motherland and keeps visiting off and on . Being away from the country and his village has only strengthened his emotional attachment with the soil . His love for the country and Sansarpur can only be matched with his passion for the hockey .When the present researcher came to know that Darshan Singh Kullar was in town , he immediately tried to contact him but had his own misgiving about the interview being materialised as Darshan Singh Kullar had come home after a long time and the researcher knew, he had many pressing engagement at hand . But to the researcher’s surprise and glee , Darshan Singh Kullar not only readily agreed for the interview but all through the interview , which lasted for four long hours , he showed no sign of fatigue or boredom for a single movement . Darshan Singh Kullar although is nearly sixty years old , his physical fitness and memory can still shame people half his age . The way , he narrated several incidents of his playing days , details of each goal he scored speak volumes for his memory and his love for the game . When , at the end of interview, the researcher apologised to him for taking so much of his time , his reply was typical of him . “ I am very happy that you are working on a topic related to hockey and Sansarpur and I will send you more related material when I reach my place .” Here are the excerpts of the interview :

In response to the researcher’s question about the memories of his early childhood and factors which motivated him to play hockey , Darshan Singh Kullar narrated following incidents .

Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that in his early days he used to play hockey and football but was initially more interested in football . He got selected for Punjab school football eleven to represent Punjab in National Games . He thought it was a big honour and was filled with joy . That day , as soon as , he reached home , he gleefully broke the news to his father expecting Kudos for him . But his father instead got very angry and scolded him saying that he had nothing to do with football , he would be happy only when he could play hockey like Udhi ( Udham Singh Kullar ) . It goes with out saying that he was not allowed by his father to represent Punjab Schools in National Tournament . The incident which , clearly reflects the attitude of parents of those days towards hockey , left a deep impression on Darshan Singh Kullar and from that day , he decided to master the skills of the game .

Another incident which Darshan Singh Kullar narrated of his childhood also reflects the village atmosphere and attitude of village elders of those days . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that one day , he asked his father for a new hockey stick . His father took him to Tara Singh Kullar’s “Attari”. Tara Singh Kullar , who had been a great hockey player of his time was instrumental in organising village tournaments in those days and used to run a small shop of hockey gear at his home . his shop also catered to small repairing of hockey gear and was a centre where village hockey lovers used together to discuss hockey . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher , when he reached Tara Singh Kullar’s place , some village elders were sitting there among whom father of present researcher Gajjan Singh Kullar was also present , who had come there to get a hockey , which had lost half its blade , repaired. When Darshan Singh Kullar’s father asked Tara Singh Kullar for a new hockey for Darshan Singh Kullar , Gajjan Singh Kullar presented Darshan Singh Kullar the repaired hockey and remarked , that he should first practice with the broken one almost simultaneously Tara Singh Kullar brought the new one for special games only . The small incident is still fresh in the mind of Darshan Singh Kullar and reminds him of the concern village elders had about other children’s game in those days .

The one incident which made him decide to opt for a career in hockey relates to his school days . Darshan Singh Kullar told researcher that in 1953-54 he was selected for Punjab Schools XI in hockey . In those days , a village tournament was organised in Sansarpur as Jaswant Singh Kullar Memorial Hockey Tournament who was father of the first Olympian from Sansarpur Gurmit Singh Kullar . In this tournament besides several teams from outside villages , four teams from Sansarpur also participated . These were: Sansarpur XI consisting of best available talent in the village , Pensioners XI , consisting of those villagers who have retired from army , Collegian XI , consisting of village boys studying in colleges , B.E.G. Roorkee XI , which had six players from Sansarpur . Darshan Singh Kullar being a school boy at that time could not find a place in any of these teams though he had been selected for Punjab Schools hockey team at that time . From this incident while one can gauge the standard of Sansarpur hockey of that time , Darshan Singh Kullar took that challenge . He vowed that one day he would surely find a place in one of those teams and play in the tournament like others . He watched all the games of the tournament , closely noting the finer points of the skills of great players taking part in the tournament and started practicing hard to emulate them .

Darshan Singh Kullar in his hay days was famous for his accurate shooting and his ability to score goals . He scored so many goals in National and International tournaments that he was dubbed as “Goal hungry player” by the National press of that time . When the present researcher asked him , how he could develop this uncanny ability of scoring goals , Darshan Singh Kullar attributed his success to rigorous practice from early days . to elaborate his point he narrated the following incident :

Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that his elder brother Pritam Singh Kullar , who was himself was a National player of repute and used to play as goalkeeper for Services team gave him first lesson in hockey and impressed upon his young , impressionable mind need and importance of practice . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that when ever Pritam Singh Kullar was home during his vacations , he used to teach Darshan Singh Kullar finer points of the game . To make him practice hard Pritam Singh Kullar drew three concentric circles on a broken door pair in the courtyard and asked Darshan Singh Kullar to take the hit . If he could hit inside inner most circle , he was awarded 5 points , for hitting the middle circle , 3 points were awarded and a hit in the outer circle carried 1 point only . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that he was made to take numerous hits daily by his brother and whenever he missed the circle , he was reprimanded by his brother and a hit to inner most circle likewise earned him accolade from the brother . Darshan Singh Kullar feels that this initial practice contributed a lot to his ability to score goals later . When the researcher remarked that what he has described , it was a skill test , Darshan Singh Kullar quipped , they did not know any such theory , they just invented the noble method for themselves .

Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that he did not get any formal coaching in his early years . He used to practice on his own by observing other players . But later , when he was selected for Indian team , his coach G.S.Bodhi worked hard with him and gave him intensive practice in shooting . During practice sessions of the team , G.S. Bodhi used to take with him a bucket containing 100-150 hockey balls , to the field . G.S.Bodhi used to throw each ball at varying angle and speed and he was asked to hit every ball . This practice with 100-150 hockey balls daily under the watchful eyes of National Coach Bodhi helped him in improving his shooting ability immensely . Darshan Singh Kullar further remarked that this hard practice has hardened the muscles of his hand and showed his hand to the researcher and the researcher could read the tale of hard work , the hand must have gone through .

While narrating the story of his mastering the skills , Darshan Singh Kullar also empasised that building a strong body through working hard is also necessary for a hockey player . Darshan Singh Kullar , who possessed very strong thighies , calf muscles and shoulders , and wrists , told the researcher that from his early days , he used to do such jobs at home which involved hard physical labour like ploughing in the field , working on Persian wheel and doing other such manual work related to Agriculture . Darshan Singh Kullar feels that the tremendous power , he could generate in his hockey shots owed a lot to the physical labour , he put in during his early days .

In response to the researcher’s question that what was the secret of him scoring so many goals , Darshan Singh Kullar’s reply was typical of man . He said that hockey is a team game and credit for scoring the goal should also be given to the players who create openings for scoring the goal . He especially mentioned the names of Udham Singh Kullar and Gurdev Singh Kullar as the players who helped him score so many goals . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that his favourite position was centre forward , at which , he initially used to play for India and Gurdev Singh Kullar was the inside right . Darshan Singh Kullar said that they had best of understanding during the play . These understanding was so perfect that they did not have even to look at each other . Darshan Singh Kullar further remarked that a hockey player should always concentrate on the ball and need not look at each other . Darshan Singh Kullar told that they used to look at the socks of a player to make out whether the player is member of their team or of opposite team , where as modern player look at the faces of the players , which is not the correct technique , as by doing so they waste precious moments of play . Paying tributes to Gurdev Singh Kullar , Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that Gurdev Singh Kullar’s taping was very accurate and Gurdev Singh Kullar used to place the ball so beautifully that it became very easy for him to take the hit .Explaining his technique of scoring the goal , Darshan Singh Kullar said that he used to run some what close to Gurdev Singh Kullar . By doing so , they could make opponent’s centre half in effective and before opponents full back could try to tackle Gurdev Singh Kullar , Gurdev Singh Kullar used to send a semi through pass to him and that way Darshan Singh Kullar had a little difficulty in shooting the ball into the opponents goal as he had to beat only the goal-keeper . Darshan Singh Kullar further told the researcher that he usually used to take a powerful hit towards the right of goal-keeper .

Darshan Singh Kullar had to change his favourite position of centre forward on the suggestion of Indian Hockey Federation President of that time , Ashwani Kumar in later part of his career , when he shifted to the position of outside left , he got maximum support from his child-hood idle Udham Singh Kullar , who used to play as inside left . Darshan Singh Kullar further explained that Udham Singh Kullar’s control on the ball was exemplary and his passes were very deft . Udham Singh Kullar used to place the ball between right half and right full and he used to run fast to receive the ball . As he had good speed , after receiving the ball , he used to run towards opponents ‘D’ and entering the ‘D’ , he could take a powerful hit towards the left of goal keeper . Darshan Singh Kullar further remarked that whenever he was successful in availing the Udham Singh Kullar’s passes , Udham Singh Kullar was very pleased and that gave Darshan Singh Kullar a great joy as he had highest regards for Udham Singh Kullar .

Thus , Darshan Singh Kullar feels that the credit of his scoring so many goals for India is not of him alone . It is the kind of humility which one can find only in a true sport man and player of highest quality . In response to the researcher’s question that though he has scored many goals in his Illustrious playing career , did he remember some of them . Darshan Singh Kullar’s face lit up on listening this question and the way he narrated the details of each tournament in which he scored goals , speaks volumes for his sharp memory . Here are the excerpts of Darshan Singh Kullar’s detail reply : Darshan Singh Kullar could easily recall the results of many tournaments in which he played . So the data he provided in this connection , is tabulated below

Team         V/S          Year     Venue           Event          Goals          Darshan’s
                                                                                 For-Against   Contribution
India   New Zealand   1961   Auckland        I  Test          2-0                  2
-do-         -do-            1961  Christchurch    II Test          2-0                  2
-do-   Australia           1962  Ahmedabad   International   3-0                  2
-do-   Holland             1962       -do-              -do-           9-0                  6
-do-   Indonesia          1962       -do-              -do-            11-0                5
-do-   Japan                1962       -do-              -do-            11-0                2
-do-   Malaya               1962       -do-              -do-            3-0                  2
-do-   U.A.R.              1962       -do-              -do-            5-0                 3
-do-   Holland             1962   Jabalpur            I  Test        2-1                 2
-do-      -do-               1962    Lucknow          II Test       1-0                  1
-do-   Kenya               1963    Nairobi              V  Test           2-0             2
-do-   Great Britain     1963    Lyons           International      2-0             1
-do-   W. Germany     1963     -do-                 -do-               1-1             1
-do-   Australia           1964   Tokyo          Olympics             3-0            1
-do-   Hong  Kong      1964     -do-                 -do-               6-0            2
-do-   France               1964   Jalandhar        III  Test            4-2            1
-do-      -do-                1964   Delhi              IV   Test            2-1           1
-do-   East  Germany   1965    -do-                I  Test               2-0          2
-do-   Japan                 1965   Amritsar           II  Test              2-1         1
-do-   -do-                   1965   Hissar              IV  Test             4-2         1
                                                                     Total                   77-8      40

Certainly , the table above does not give the complete information about all the goals he scored . One can easily see for the table that the 21 games Darshan Singh Kullar mentioned , were all won by India and out of the total of 77 goals scored by India ,40 , more than half of the tally , were scored by Darshan Singh Kullar himself . The goals mentioned in the table are the ones , he could recall as special memories are attached with them , remarked Darshan Singh Kullar . Darshan Singh Kullar considers International tournament , played in 1962 at Ahmedabad , in which beside India teams from Australia , Holland , Indonesia , Malaya , W. Germany , the U.A.R. , Japan ,Belgium , New Zealand participated , as his most productive one . In this tournament India in all scored 51 goals , nearly half of which were scored by him . Not only he scored so many goals , he scored double hat trick against strong Dutch team . The tournament earned him great laurels and his efforts were duly appreciated by the National press . Newspapers and sports magazines published headings as “Goal Hungry Darshan”, and “Half the way” recalled Darshan Singh Kullar nostalgically . Darshan Singh Kullar also told the researcher that after the tournament , Holland’s manager jokingly remarked to him in a personal chat that in the test series , which woe to be followed , he would not be able to score against them . But in the two-match test , India defeated Holland 2-0 , 1-0 and all the three goals were scored by him . Darshan Singh Kullar further remarked that the Holland team against whom he scored double-hat trick , a rare feat in hockey history , was not a weak team as the scores in the test series , played immediately after clearly suggested . It was just one of the big day for him , told Darshan Singh Kullar in his typical humble way .

The other tournament Darshan Singh Kullar considered worth mentioning was the test-series against Kenya played at Nairobi in 1963 . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that as by that time he had become famous for his goal scoring ability , Avtar Singh a Kenyan player deliberately hit him at the head with his stick , injuring Darshan Singh Kullar seriously . But he did not leave the field and continued playing with his heavily bandaged forehead and scored two goals even after getting injured .

Darshan Singh Kullar considers the goal , he scored against England in Lyons ( 1963 ) as the best goal he could ever score . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that the goalkeeper against whom the goal was scored met him after many years in England and he reminded Darshan Singh Kullar of that goal , saying that in his long career , as goalkeeper , he had not seen a better goal being scored against him . Taking about this goal , Darshan Singh Kullar himself got little excited . He stood up from his seat and went to the door of the room and pointed to the researcher that he may consider the door as a goal then he hit the ball in the top corner , by pointing the corner with his hand . Darshan Singh Kullar also considered the two goals , he scored in 1966 against France in International hockey tournament at Hamburg through penalty corner for special mention . He told the researcher that as in the above mentioned tournament , Prithipal Singh , who was India’s penalty corner specialist , was not with Indian team , he was given this responsibility . He explained the strategy through which he scored the two goals . He said that through his stick work , he first dodged the opponents attacker and then took a powerful hit . Darshan Singh Kullar further remarked that the above technique could be success fully employed by modern Indian penalty corner specialists and might help in overcoming one of our major drawback .

Darshan Singh Kullar’s epithet for scoring the goals is still not satiated . He still regrets that he could have scored many more goals if circumstances could permit . He feels that the goal scoring opportunities became fewer for him in later half of his playing days as he was shifted against his wishes from position of centre forward to left out by Ashwani Kumar , President , Indian Hockey Federation . Darshan Singh Kullar feels that he could continue playing as centre forward , would have scored more goals . More-ever ,for some reasons , later he had to migrate to England at a time when his playing days were not over . He could have easily represented India in two-more Olympics and scored many goals , circumstances would have allowed , regretted Darshan Singh Kullar .
The above narration bore testimony to the fact that Darshan Singh Kullar was one of the greatest marks-man India had ever produced . In his playing days he was so daring a centre forward that the opposition was always weary of him . He had no fear in tackling the most robust opponents , where as generally most of the centre forward fear injuries in tackling the opponents .

In response to the researcher’s query that he had any regrets or not while looking back to his llustrious playing career Darshan Singh Kullar had to say the following :
Darshan Singh Kullar thanked the Almighty for bestowing the highest honour of playing for country to him but said , he still had the feeling that he could have scored many more goals if he were allowed to continue playing at his favourite position of centre forward . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that he was shifted to outside left position by the Indian Hockey Federation Chief , Ashwani Kumar who was also his boss in the Punjab Police as Ashwani Kumar wanted to accommodate Harvinder Singh in the team . Darshan Singh Kullar remarked that Harvinder Singh was also a good centre forward , but in his presence , he could not get this position in the team . So to strengthen the team , Ashwani Kumar shifted Darshan Singh Kullar to outside left and Darshan Singh Kullar had no choice but to obey him as he had great regards for Ashwni Kumar . But this shift certainly restricted his goal scoring opportunities , regretted Darshan Singh Kullar .

Darshan Singh Kullar further told the researcher , that he was selected as Captain of Indian hockey team tour of Argentina in 1965 . He was thrilled to get this highest honour of leading the National team . But before the team could leave for Argentina , Indo-Pak war started and the tour was called off . Thus Darshan Singh Kullar lost the golden opportunity due to circumstances . Darshan Singh Kullar considers this as one of the near misses of his career .
The greatest set back Darshan Singh Kullar had in his playing career was to follow told Darshan Singh Kullar . In 1966 , he was the senior most member of the team , yet he was not appointed Captain for Hamburg International hockey tournament due to non hockey reasons , lamented Darshan Singh Kullar . To clarify his point , Darshan Singh Kullar added that when he asked Indian Hockey Federation personnel , the reasons due to which Captaincy of the tour was not awarded to him , he was told by them that he was not considered suitable for the job due to his poor educational background and lack of ability to express himself in English . Darshan Singh Kullar still feels that lame excuses as the great Dhayan Chand , Francis , Laxman who had led the national prior to him had the same socalled drawbacks . Darshan Singh Kullar still sharp memory , his knowledge and understanding of the game and leadership qualities as reflected in the long conversation with the researcher coupled with the hockey skills , certainly would have made him a great Captain . The incident throws some light on the games people at the highest pedestal of power play and which have been and still are the boon of our hockey .

Darshan Singh Kullar who represented India in 1964 Olympics had regrets that he could do so only once . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that he was selected for 1960 Olympics Indian probables and had a fair chance of getting into the final team . But during the trials , his knee got injured and so his wish of representing India in his Olympic could materialise only in 1964 . He could not represent India in 1968 Olympic , as in 1966 , he had migrated to Britain remarked Darshan Singh Kullar . Circumstances which forced Darshan Singh Kullar to leave the country he loved so much and felt great pride in representing it in International hockey are still a source of mental trauma for Darshan Singh Kullar and he took the crucial decision after great deliberation and with a heavy heart told Darshan Singh Kullar and he termed the decision to migrate from India as the “Turning Point” of his career . Talking about the reasons which made him so decide , his face , mannerism and voice all were pointers to the great pain , he still feels deep down his heart . Darshan Singh Kullar had to say the following in this connection :

Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that he was on a personal visit to his brother in law Ajmer Singh in Coventry , when a common friend Kewal Singh visited them . He asked him to play in a friendly match which was being organised by Indian between Indian workers and Midland As Darshan Singh Kullar was always keen to play hockey , he readily agreed . When Darshan Singh Kullar reached the venue of the game , he found a large crowd eagerly awaiting the start of play and setting and atmospheres were so good that it drew the best out of him and he played a good game . Henry a lover of sports and Adward Wilson , ( M . P. & Advocate ) were also watching the hockey match . After the game was over, Adward visited him and offered him a job to play and coach the club team as they were deeply impressed by his showing in the game . The offer was very tempting but Darshan Singh Kullar who had a great love for Indian hockey and considered playing for India as the greatest honour refused the offer first . But when they persisted with the offer , he asked for some time to decide , to which they agreed . Now Darshan Singh Kullar was on the horns of a dalima . On the one hand there was financial security , as the money offered to him was many times higher than the salary he was getting as an Inspector in Punjab Police working in India . On the other hand there was the greatest honour he could think it , of representing India in hockey field . But then he realised that even his hockey career is not on a very solid ground . The way , he was made to change his favourite position , had already curved his goal scoring ability and he was also denied the well earned right of leading the National team on very glimsy grounds of not being educated enough and well vesed in English . All these were pointers to the fact that perhaps his hockey playing days for country were not long . And most hurting was the fact that all this was not due to any decline in his hockey playing ability . He deliberated upon the issue in his mind , again and again , almost for a week. He was still undecided , but lot of cofling from his brother in law and Gurjit Singh Kullar from Sansarpur finally made him decide to accept the offer . But it was the decision which was taken by a very heavy heart told Darshan Singh Kullar .

Darshan Singh Kullar’s story is typical of the way , the greatest of hockey players have been treated by us . A player of Darshan Singh Kullar’s calibre being shabbily treated by Indian Hockey Federation and not being provided enough financial security could not be think of in any other country . But look at this great man , whose voice choked of while narrating the story and he finished of by saying that may be he did not make the right decision but perhaps it was destined to be so and he did not blame any body for the same .

As the interview has already taken four long hours and Darshan Singh Kullar became emotionally disturbed while narrating the above incident , to relieve the tension , researcher reminded him of a few incidents of researcher’s early life to which Darshan Singh Kullar was a party. Researcher told him that once he requested Darshan Singh Kullar to play in a friendly match between Sansarpur and Khusropur , the two hockey rivals of the area . Darshan Singh Kullar had already represented India that time and yet he readily agreed to play in the match . When Sansarpur’s team reached the venue and Khusropur’s team came to know that Darshan Singh Kullar was also playing in Sansarpur’s team , they refused to take the field. A smile came back on Darshan Singh Kullar’s lips after being reminded of the incident . He remarked to the researcher that he did not know what happened next morning ‘ when he reached his office . He was pulled up by his boss Udham Singh Kullar for going to play without informing him and thus guilty of violating the rules . Darshan Singh Kullar told the researcher that his reply to Udham Singh Kullar was that he had gone to play hockey for the village , he had not gone for any thing wrong and though he was violated the rules , it has been done for a good cause . Darshan Singh Kullar also remarked that he knew that he would be reprimanded by Udham Singh Kullar even then , when he was asked by the researcher to play in the game . But he agreed not because he knew the punishment he could receive would be something more than taking few rounds of the field and the honour of playing for the village team was much higher for him even when he had already represented India .

The above incident clearly reflects the love and esteem in which he hold the village hockey . The researcher also reminded him of the incident when he played cricket with hockey stick . The researcher vividly remembers that one evening Darshan Singh Kullar was coming back from the hockey field after hockey practice and the researcher, who was in final years of school was playing cricket with his friends in the village lane . Seeing them play cricket , he stopped there and asked them to bowl to him . Best bowlers of the team bowled to him and using his hockey stick in place of cricket bat , he could hit all of them all over the place without missing a single ball . That was the mastery , control and keen eye sight of Darshan Singh Kullar in those days . On listening to the researcher’s narration , Darshan Singh Kullar simply smiled as if he was saying “those were the days”.

It was time for the researcher to thank Darshan Singh Kullar for his long interview and to take leave of him . Darshan Singh Kullar in return also thanked the researcher and wished him good luck saying that he had great interest in seeing his thesis by completed and something positive for Sansarpur hockey coming out of it . He also promised to send more related material for the researcher’s thesis after reaching his place in England .

Having met and interviewed one of the greatest hockey player of India , the researcher had mixed feelings . On the one hand , he was simply thrilled to get this honour , but the thought which kept disturbing his mind was : “Have we treated our heroes in a manner befitting of them”? Probably Not , Is the sad answer

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