Gurjit Singh Kullar

About six feet tall, well built, handsome Gurjit Singh Kullar, who represented India in 1958 Asian Games held at Tokyo, is now settled in Birmingham ( England ), when the researcher came to know of his visit to his in-laws residing in the nearby Jandu Sangha village, about 10 Km away from Sansarpur, he planned to meet him there. As he could not take a prior appointment from Gurjit Singh Kullar, he reached his home one evening. Gurjit Singh Kullar was just about to leave his place with his family for a party, when the researcher knocked at his door. Gurjit Singh Kullar himself opened the door. As he was seeing the researcher after quite some time, he could not recognise him immediately. But when the researcher introduced himself, he could easily recollect and welcomed him into the house. On coming to know the purpose of the researcher’s visit, he immediately agreed to grant the interview and delayed his earlier set programme. Following are the excerpts of the interview:

About the early childhood and family life in Sansarpur, Gurjit Singh Kullar told the researcher that he lost his father at a very early age. He was hardly 4-5 years of age at the time of his demise and do not have any memories of him. Though, he has heard from his elders that his father was a great hockey player. He could not learn any hockey skills from his father but perhaps he ( inherited ) it from him. In his early upbringing, his mother played a key role and always inspired him to emulate his father. But more than anything else, Gurjit Singh Kullar feels, it was the hockey worshipping village atmosphere of those days, which motivated him to take to hockey in a big way. He learnt his early hockey by playing in the village evening matches and by observing hockey greats of that era. After passing the school, he joined Punjab Police as sub-inspector and played for police team also. In 1962, he left his police job and migrated to England, where he is still working with Bourne-ville sports club ( Birmingham ) as care manager ( Social Service ) and occasionally plays in friendly matches, though he is more than 65 years old now.

Gurjit Singh Kullar considers, his non selection for 1956 Melbourne Olympics, anear miss of his career, as he was among the stand-byes and played with the Olympic bound team in India but was dropped from the final party. But he got his chance to represent India in 1958 Tokyo Asian Games and considers India Colour as the greatest honour bestowed on him and fulfillment of his life ambition.

Gurjit Singh Kullar was considered a perfect marksman during his playing days. He was a penalty corner specialist and had a conversion rate of more than 80%. On being asked by the researcher, how could he master such accuracy, Gurjit Singh Kullar replied that the key to his success was hard practice. He further explained that to increase his accuracy, he used to practice in a special way. First he would put a brick at the corner of goal and used to take hits from one yard distance. When he could do that successfully, he would increase the distance to two yards and again repeat the exercise and so by gradually increasing the distance would finally practice from the top of the striking circle.

As for his accuracy, Gurjit Singh Kullar was also famous for the peculiar hockey stick, he used to play with. Gurjit Singh Kullar used a curved hockey stick ( bow shaped ) through out his hockey career. When the researcher mentioned this to him, Gurjit Singh Kullar smiled and explained that such a stick helped him in raising the ball a bit, as he was a wristy player. A hit of the wrist with a slightly curved hockey stick would send the ball little over the ground, just enough to go above the boots of the goal-keeper. As most goal-keepers use their boots to stop a hit, it becomes very difficult for them to successfully boot a ball traveling at high speed above the ground. He further added that he himself used to give this special curve to his stick as such sticks are not available in the market.

Gurjit Singh Kullar further emphasised that nothing can be a substitute for hard work. A gruelling practice schedule is a must to develop any hockey skill. He told the researcher that during his playing days, he used to practice atleast three times a day. In the morning, he used to go for running and physical exercises which was followed by an hour of hockey playing session. Thus, during the day, he used to practice at Punjab Police ground and in the evenings, he used to participate in village games. These three were the regular playing sessions. In addition to these, he used to practice alone also in order to overcome his drawbacks and excel the others. He further added, all evening games, were followed by serious hockey discussions among the players, village elders and senior hockey players. Any short comings in the game of any player were not only pointed out but analysed and suggestions were offered. In the light of these suggestions, he used to practice alone to correct his faults.
When the researcher asked Gurjit Singh Kullar that though he must have scored plenty of goals during his playing days, which were the ones, he considers special or most satisfying, Gurjit Singh Kullar mentioned the following:

He said that in 1953, he represented Rajasthan Club in a Calcutta league match against East Bengal. In this game he scored 4 goals. As this was the time, he has come on national scene, his showing in the game made national selectors notice him.

The other game, he fondly remembers was the, he played in England in 1965, when he has retired from international hockey. This was a friendly game between Bournville Sports Club, the team Gurjit Singh Kullar represented and English Club. In this game also, he scored four goals. The man under the bars for English Club, against whom these goals were scored was a young man Taylor, who was destined to become the greatest England goal-keeper, an all time great whose commanding presence under the cage guided Britain to their Olympic gold in 1988. Gurjit Singh Kullar further told the researcher, that Taylor came to him after the game and asked him, how could he score so many goals against him as he has never been beaten so many times in his life. Even at that time Tylor had a reputation of a fine goal-keeper though he was yet to represent England. Gurjit Singh Kullar was sporting enough to reveal the secret to Tylor. He told him that when ball was being passed to him, he was not looking at the ball but was concentrating on goal-keeper. As soon as he got the ball, he would hit the ball in a direction opposite to the movement of goal-keeper. Once a goal-keeper has moved towards left or right and a ball is hit in the opposite direction, it is almost impossible for a goal-keeper to reverse his motion quickly enough to stop the ball. He could do so as he had been observing the goal-keeper even before himself collecting the ball.

Another game he fondly remembers was the one he played with United Brothers Club against Indian hockey team in 1966. In this game also he scored two goals but one of them was disallowed by the refree R.S. Gentle who happened to be the coach of Indian hockey team also and match was drawn 1-1.

As the interview has gone for more than two hours and the researcher realised that he had delayed him and his family for the party they were going to, he asked the last question. Any message for the youngsters ? Gurjit Singh Kullar said that the key to the success lies in hard work, dedication, simple life style, and rigorous physical training. He said that during his playing days, they were leading simple life. They had no addictions, no luxurious life style. They had no vices only thing they had was single minded dedication to the game. Playing for the country was the highest honour for them. They love the game and their country. They had no consideration for monetary gains or foreign tours, where as for the modern players, unfortunately, priorities are different. So his advice to the younger players would be that they should lead a simple life, build their stamina and keep themselves physically fit. They must practice as hard as possible and should have the national interest at the top.

Now the researcher once again apologised to Gurjit Singh Kullar for delaying him and thanked him for the interview. Gurjit Singh Kullar replied by saying that he enjoyed the chat with the researcher and will be too happy to help him in this endeavor of him, as he was working on Sansarpur’s hockey, which is equally dear to him. With these words, the interview came to the end.

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