Dhanraj Pillay (1968-present)
Dhanraj Pillay is a former captain of the Indian hockey team. He is a field hockey player from Pune who created magic with his skills on the hockey field. His sporting spirit, speed and agility on the field would make the audience watch him in awe. The Indian hockey team won the 1998 Asian games and 2003 Asia Cup under his captaincy. Pillai has played in four Olympics, four World Cups and four Asian Games among other matches.
Life of Dhanraj Pillay:
Dhanraj Pillay was born on 16th July 1968 in Khadiki in Pune, Maharashtra. He was born as the fourth son of Tamil parents Nagalingam Pillay and Andalama. Dhanraj Pillay spent his youth in the Ordnance Factory staff colony where his father was a grounds man. He learnt his skills with broken sticks and discarded hockey balls by playing with his brothers and friends in his colony thereby imitating the style of legendary forward and idol, Mohammed Shahid. Dhanraj’s mother, whom he gives all due credit for his success, encouraged her five sons to play hockey despite living a hand-to-mouth existence. Dhanraj later moved to Mumbai in the mid eighties to join his elder brother Ramesh who was playing in the Mumbai league. Ramesh, who had already played for India in the international level, guided Dhanraj to develop himself as a potent and speedy striker. Thereafter, Dhanraj was tutored by the then Indian Coach, Joaquim Carvalho after he moved on to Mahindra & Mahindra.
Sports Career of Dhanraj Pillai:
Dhanraj Pillay made his debut in the international hockey in the year 1989 where he represented India in the Allwyn Cup held in New Delhi. Dhanraj’s career spanned from December 1989 to August 2004 and he played a total of 339 international matches. He scored around 170 goals in his career. He is the only player to have played in four Olympics in the years 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 respectively. He has also played in four World Cups in the years 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002 as well as four Champion Trophy titles in the years 1995, 1996, 2002 and 2003. Dhanraj Pillay has also played four Asian games in the years 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002 respectively. The Indian hockey team won the 1998 Asian games and 2003 Asia Cup under his captaincy. Dhanraj was also the highest goal scorer in the Bangkok Asian Games and was the only Indian player to figure in the World Eleven side during the 1994 World Cup held in Sydney.
Dhanraj Pillay has also played hockey for a number of foreign clubs. He has played for foreign clubs like Indian Gymkhana (in London), HC Lyon (in France), BSN HC and Telekom Malaysia HC (in Malaysia), Abhahani Limited (in Dhaka), HTC Stuttgart Kickers (in Germany) and Khalsa Sports Club (in Hong Kong). During the end of his career, he also played in the Premier Hockey league for the Maratha Warriors for two seasons.
Dhanraj Pillay is currently playing for Karnataka Lions in the World Series Hockey which is played in India. He scored two goals for his team which is captained by ex-Indian captain Arjun Halappa. Dhanraj is also currently the manager of the Indian Hockey team and a member of the ad hoc committee of the Indian Hockey Federation which was formed after the suspension of Kanwar Pal Singh Gill.
Achievements of Dhanraj Pillai:
Dhanraj Pillay is the recipient of India’s highest sporting honor, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for the year 1999-2000. He was also awarded with the prestigious Padma Shri Award, India’s fourth highest civilian award in the year 2000 by the Indian Government. Dhanraj Pillay was the winning captain of the victorious Asian games 2002 hockey team. He was also awarded the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award in the 2002 Champions Trophy held in Cologne in Germany. Pillay is currently involved in trying to start a hockey academy in Mumbai. A biography on his life titled ‘Forgive Me Amma (Mother)’ was also released which was written by journalist Sundeep Mishra, who has tracked his career spanning almost three decades.