“Balbir Singh (Sr.) was a wonderful scorer, one of the best India has ever produced and the world has ever seen. He was calm and quiet on the field, but was an opportunist,” said 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Gurbux Singh, in his tribute to one of the all-time greats of the sport.
As a youngster, Gurbux had the privilege of watching Balbir in action and playing, albeit briefly, against him. “The first time I saw him was in Lucknow in 1952. Legends like Balbir, Dharam Singh, Uddham Singh and Trilochan Singh were in action.
“Then I got to play against him in a semifinal in 1955. I got to know him better in 1959 when he became the camp in-charge of the Indian team for the pre-Olympics,” Gurbux, who bagged a bronze in the 1968 Olympics and gold in the 1966 Asian Games, told The Hindu on Monday.
Remembering Balbir’s game, Gurbux said, “He would convert even half-chances. His hits were very powerful. Balbir is a legend from an era when players were self-made. There was no coaching. The maximum you got was some mentoring.”
Eighty-four-year-old Gurbux said legends like Balbir used to attract spectators to the stands. “We grew up looking up to him. Keshav Dutt, who is not well, is the last one left from the 1948 batch. Players like Balbir, Keshav and K.D. Singh Babu inspired us. It was wonderful to watch them in action,” said Gurbux.