Legendary Indian hockey player and Olympian Hardayal Singh died of prolong illness in Dehradun on Friday. He was 90. Hardayal was a member of the gold medal winning Indian team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

The life of Hardayal changed drastically after he joined the Sikh Regiment in 1949. The high standard of the Sikh Regiment hockey team helped the budding player from Doon develop his game. Hardayal was selected to represent the country in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, under captain Balbir Singh Senior. The team defeated arch rival Pakistan by a solitary goal to clinch the gold.

Committed to work for the development of the game, Hardayal began working as coach after retiring as player. He served as chief coach at the National Stadium in New Delhi for long years. He was assigned the responsibility of coaching the junior team and later the senior side. As a coach, Hardayal guided India to win a silver medal at the 1985 Asia Cup in Dhaka. Acknowledging his contribution to hockey, he was honoured with the Dhyan Chand Award of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2004.

A down to earth person, Hardayal used to share many hockey stories with friends, players and journalists. Hardayal Singh used to tell about a national camp hosted at the Dehradun based Indian Military Academy. Recalling this he used to say, “One day the coach formed a team consisting the best players of the camp and a team of Dehradun players. I played for the Dehradun side and we shocked the rivals by defeating them in the practice match.” About the weakness of the Indian hockey team he used to repeat, “We lack the killer instinct.”

After taking premature retirement from the Army in 1969, Subedar Hardayal Singh devoted his time to family and hockey. He used to stay at the Pushpanjali enclave in the city and the death has created shock-wave among sports lovers. The last rites of Hardayal Singh was performed at the Lakkhi Bagh in Dehradun on Saturday. Besides sports lovers, a team of Sikh Regiment also attended to pay their respect to the legendary Indian hockey player.