Dhanraj Pillay, one of the greatest hockey players in India was born on 15th July, 1968 in Khadki. As the large family of Nagalingam Pillay, an ammunition factory worker, was suffering from financial crisis, the youngest child was given the name, Dhanraj (wealthy). He took to hockey in his early childhood; Dhanraj and his friends used a few broken sticks pasted with gum and sutali (gunny sack strings). In fact, Dhanraj and his elder brother Ramesh were among the serious players in that group of friends; so much so that Dhanraj was more into playing hockey than in his studies and hated school (Sugra Vilasi Sabha (SVS) School).
Soon his brother Ramesh began to play hockey for a club in Mumbai. Once, the club fell short of one playing member and an urgent letter was sent to Dhanraj to join in. Although, he the match as a substitute player, he easily got noticed by the coaches and got his first big break, when Joaquim Carvalho requested him to join Mahindra & Mahindra.
Dhanraj now spent some successful years playing hockey at club level, while getting exposure in the national circuit, when he played the 1987 Sanjay Gandhi Tournament in Delhi. He played as a right-out in his team and beat the famous Rajinder with his extraordinary speed, earning him the title, Toofan. He won the best player award then.
At Mahindra & Mahindra, Dhanraj got the chance to play in the National and international circuit. He made his national debut in 1989 for Asia Cup and has played alongside some big names of that era like Marcellus Gomes, Mark Patterson and Joaquim Carvalho, who helped him improve his game tremendously.
Dhanraj played some big tournaments like the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, Auckland 1991 Olympic qualifiers, 1992 Barcelona Olympics, 1994 World Cup and many more, fine-tuning his fitness by playing in the English League, French League and the German League, to became one of the fittest and finest hockey players in the history of Indian Hockey.