More than four decades ago, in 1975, India had won the Hockey World Cup on this day. Despite winning eight gold medals at the Olympics, the Indian men's hockey team had the taste of World Cup success just once, which scripted a glorious chapter in India's sporting history. Forty-six years have passed, and India is yet to win their second title.
It was a memorable day for all Indians when most people heard an enlivened commentator Jasdev Singh saying 'Bharat vishva hockey champion hai' (India is champion of the world in hockey). Nothing could match the sheer euphoria because India had gone on to beat their arch-rivals Pakistan in the final, after suffering the ignominy of a heart-breaking loss two years ago in 1973 against the Netherlands.
The tournament that otherwise went topsy turvy for India, was led by the Ajit Pal Singh, son of the legendary Dhyan Chand. In the finals, they notched up a thrilling 2-1 win against Pakistan at the Merdeka Football Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Since India's triumph in the 1956 Olympics, the team was looking for their next major success in hockey. The gold-medal spree at the Olympics couldn't be satiated in the previous two World Cups, where they had to settle for silver and bronze medals. While players like Ajit Pal, Aslam Sher Khan, Surjit Singh, Ashok Kumar were the faces of the team, one person was played a crucial role staying away from the limelight. It was none other than Balbir Singh Sr, the three-time Olympic gold medallist, who was then the chief coach and manager of the Indian hockey team.
Balbir instilled a belief and confidence among all the team members and inculcated the feeling of unity. Since the Indian men's hockey team was dominated by Sikh players, their slogan used to be 'Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal'. With Balbir in the helm, the slogan was changed to 'Jo Bole So Hai, Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. This new slogan struck a chord and pumped up the team for every match they played. On their way to the final, India upstaged England, Ghana and West Germany, drew with West Germany and lost to Argentina.
In the Semis, India was trailing 2-1 against host Malaysia. Surjit Singh and Michael Kindo had formed a great partnership in the defence, which had relegated Aslan Sher Khan in the sideline. Just 5 minutes before the final whistle, Balbir had pushed Aslan to the field, who scored an equaliser from a penalty corner to take the match into extra time. Harcharan Singh then scored a goal in the extra time and helped India win the match.
In the final, Surjit and Ashok were the two goal-scorers for India who defended a one-goal lead against their neighbouring rivals. A National holiday was declared in India on the day of the final and the Indian community in Malaysia was equally excited. India's lone hockey world cup win is barely celebrated and is on the verge of getting forgotten in people's conscience.