Ajit Pal Singh
Sikh Hockey Player (B.1947)
Ajit Pal Singh was rightly acclaimed as "one of the best centre halfs in the world" during his time. He led India to a sensational victory in the third World Cup Hockey Tournament at Kuala Lumpur in 1975. But next year with practically the same team he saw India crashing to the seventh place in the Montreal Olympic Games.
Born on April 1,1947, Ajit Pal Singh learnt the alphabet of hockey in his native Sansarpur village, the bastion of hockey during that time. A number of players from this village had already represented India in the Olympics and a number of international tournaments.
He first played in an international hockey tournament at Bombay in 1960. Later he represented India in Japan in 1966. Having finished his studies at the school, Ajit Pal Singh joined Layallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, which had honour ,of a number of star hockey players. Ajit Pal Singh got the first real break when, as student of B.A. Part-I, he was selected in the Indian team to play in the Pre-Olympic Hockey Tournament at London in 1967. Thereafter he did not look back and came permanently on the rolls of Indian hockey team.
Next year Ajit Pal Singh gave a dazzling show of stickwork in the Mexico Olympic Games. he showed what a fine sense of distribution he had and how he helped make the half-line function smoothly. Ajit Pal Singh showed such dexterity and skill at his position that he was included in the World Hockey teams of 1971" 72 and 73. He next represented India in the 1974 Asian Games at Teheran. Consequently he was included in the Asian All-Star Hockey XI the same year.
But he reached the pinnacle of glory in 1.975 when he led India to the third World Cup victory in Kuala Lumpur in the most trying circumstances. The Punjab Government had borne all expenses prior to the participation by organising a camp for the team in Punjab. The whole country was in great jubilation. For the first time hockey seemed to get priority over cricket in the country.
Ajit Pal next toured New Zealand. But in 1976 in the Montreal Olympic Games India suffered. the most humiliating defeat under Ajit Pal Singh when they finished seventh. No one seemed ready for an answer what went wrong for, India had fielded practically the same team which had won the third World Cup title.
Fed up with the Indian show at Montreal and in view of the mounting criticism in the country, Ajit Pal Singh retired from the international hockey scene. However, he continued playing for the BSF where he was employed as Assistant Commandant. He was also not happy the way the Indian Hockey Federation managed its affairs treating the players shabbily off and on the field.
Four years later Ajit Pal Singh came out of retirement to play in the Champions Trophy Tournament at Karachi in 1980. That ultimately became his last international appearance for India. Ajit.Pal Singh was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1972. Ajit Pal Singh shared one common trait with the late Surjit Singh. He always challenged the highhandedness of IHF bosses who, showed scant respect for the boys who toiled in the field for the country's honour. He was very vocal in criticising the IHF working. But as a player, Ajit Pal Singh was very shrewd, a great schemer and played hockey in his mind. At present, he owns a Centre-Half filling station in Delhi.