Name the game which is played on horse back and the goal posts are changed every time a player scores a goal? Name the game which was once played only by royalty but now is slowly becoming a passion with the masses? Yes, you’ve guessed it right! It is Polo, the game of the fast and the furious which is played on horseback.
For Jai Singh and Vikramaditya Singh, the owners of Polo Factory, the brand that manufactures polo equipment, polo is not just a game but a way of life for the players and the people associated with them. Explains Jai, ‘There are four players in a team. Each polo player has to have at least five to six ponies. Each of these horses needs a groom which means a lot of employment since these horses need all the infrastructure like stables etc.’
So, does this imply that people who can afford to buy and maintain these horses can only play the game? ‘Not in this day and age,’ says Jai. ‘Some players come from the 61st Cavalry, which is known for producing well known polo players like Colonel Kuldeep Gurcha. Now new players who are talented but do not have the resources often find patrons, people who are passionate about the game and have the horses. A good example is Abhimanyu Pathak, one of India’s top players who started out as a call center executive and supported his dream for playing polo by learning horse riding.’
So, where do these players get the horses from? Jai says, ‘Some of the horses come with the players of the 61st Cavalary of the Indian Army, while others are retired race horses. Then there are organizations like Polo Clubs and individuals who import horses from countries like Argentina, England, New Zealand which are the hub of international polo.’
So, where all in India is polo played? Jai says, ‘It was once played in Kolkata but now that circuit is inactive. Besides Jaipur, which has 13 big polo grounds, and is a favorite hub for the polo lovers, Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru circuits are also active.’
We talked and watched the players like Padmanabh Singh, the erstwhile maharaja of Jaipur, Sidhanth Singh battle it out along with their teams in the first match of the Amateur Cup, which is being organized by Polofactory. In this tournament, there are two pools A and B. Each pool comprises of three teams. Chandna Group, Kanota and RRPC form the pool A while Bikaner Polo, PoloFactory, Polo Inn and Suites form the pool B.
Jai beckoned a photographer who was busy shooting the players. He told me that the photographer R K Singh is perhaps the only one who has been exclusively shooting polo matches all over India for the last 25 years. When I quizzed him on his passion to capture polo, he said, ‘I love action and in polo matches there are no retake. So, I like the thrill of capturing the moment.’
Rajvi Shailender Singh, a well-known player believes that Jaipur has the best crowd when it comes to polo because the polo matches that are organized in Jaipur are always open for the public as compared to Delhi where one needs passes to watch a polo match. ‘Most people who come to watch the game know the rules, the fouls and the players. There are some veterans in the crowds who even know the name of the horses.’
Polo comes with its own share of interesting and amusing incidents for its players. Rajvi Shailendra Singh narrates an interesting incident, ‘In 2000, when I was playing a game in Delhi, my horse froze in the middle of a game. I tried to make it move but to now avail. I looked up and saw the entire team coming towards me on their horses. They were so involved in the game that even though I shouted and told them to watch out, no body paid any attention. So, finally, I had no option but to jump off my horse and run to save my life. The moment I jumped off, the horse sprang into action and ran off in the opposite direction. Now the incident sounds funny but that time it was the scariest moment of my life.’
Jay concludes, ‘Polo is a sport that is a combination of skill, speed and agility. Now with the young blood coming in it has become even more attractive for people who love to ride horses and play this fast and furious game.’
The Polofactory Amateur Cup is being played at the Polofactory Yard, Dhankya in Jaipur till November 17, 2019. The entry is free for all. The first match of today will be played between Kanota/RRPC and Benaz Corp. In the second match, Polo Inn and Suites will battle it out with Bikaner Polo.
Shailaza Singh’s article was published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on November 13, 2019