No. 7: India win the 1975 hockey World Cup

Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

The story till then

India's domination of world hockey, winning six Olympic golds in a row since 1928, had ended by the 1960s. Two bronze-medal finishes in 1968 and 1972 showed that the balance of power had shifted to Pakistan and to the more muscular game of Australia and the European teams. In the 1973 World Cup, India finished runners-up to Netherlands, going down on penalty strokes. In the 1975 tournament they were patchy in the group phase - beating England, West Germany and Ghana and drawing with Australia and losing to Argentina - but goal difference saw them top the group and earn a semi-final spot against hosts Malaysia. They won that match in extra time to enter the final, against Pakistan.

The moment
Pakistan took the lead in the final thanks to Zahid Sheikh's shot after a mazy run. India levelled after half-time when Surjit Singh converted a penalty corner. The winner was scored, fittingly enough, by Dhyan Chand's son, Ashok Kumar. It wasn't without controversy, though; the ball hit the post and bounced back, but despite Pakistan's protests, the umpire deemed it had crossed the line and awarded the goal.

The reaction
"Our biggest prize was the love and respect we got from the countrymen, but it is unfortunate that despite winning the World Cup, not many of our team-mates were considered for Arjuna Award."
- Aslam Sher Khan, team member

Expert view
"Jubilant scenes were witnessed throughout India. The team was felicitated by several state governments and given cash awards, gifts and allotted flats. The team was also greeted by president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi at a special reception."
- Novy Kapadia, journalist and historian

The story since
Not very good, sadly. Hockey switched from grass to AstroTurf, changing the nature of the game from touch and dribble to power, and India's resurgence was nipped in the bud. The very next year they failed, for the first time, to win an Olympic medal, and though they won gold in 1980, it was largely because of the boycott of the strongest teams. Since then, India have not won a World Cup or Champions Trophy or an Olympic medal of any colour. The bitterness in Aslam Sher Khan's comments (and the title of his autobiography) also point to how hockey has fallen in stature.

Recommended reading
To Hell with Hockey by Aslam Sher Khan