In India you either have to be rich or in the Army to be able to play Polo,” Abhimanyu Pathak, a 27 years old professional polo player said this at the BLK Baroda Cup announcement. He didn’t mince his words, as for an aspiring sportsperson here, especially in equestrian kinds or in the field of shooting, pursuing the dream can mean a huge investment with no assured returns. Mention Polo and the image of nobility paints one’s imagination. The royal tournaments bring spring in the chill of winters — season preferred for the game — creme de la creme resorts to their binoculars to savour the sight of men and horses… but all this can be beautifully assembled because of Army’s determined support to sports especially in Polo.
It has flourished under Army’s aegis as our forces boast of necessary requirements that keep it going at a high speed. The problems like lack of financial support, infrastructural gaps and unfit players don’t really creep in, “Army has been preserving and promoting Polo in India. There was a time when more of army men or their sons participated in Polo seasons,” Maharaja Gaj Singh II said this at the announcement of the fourth season of Jodhpur Polo session.
The army of players
Indian Polo Association, IPA is the pivotal organisation, quite like BCCI for cricket, most of its members are from army background and General Bikram Singh is its president. “Without the army support it is difficult to maintain the standards of the game. There were some non-army players or supporters who tried to take Polo forward but surrendered to the lack of infrastructural facilities. It is a high maintenance sport that requires a good breed of horses, well bred ground and trained horsemen… army is blessed with all of that,” Gaj Singh II added. Even if there are some grounds for the sport they wallow in neglect, real estate shows interest in land for different reasons but, “The best thing in India is army is the biggest land holder here so we can have the grounds for the sport,” Adhiraj Singh captain of Sahara Warriors team said.
Marx Charlton, a Polo player from England finds the equestrian sport much more professional back home. Overseas especially in regions like Europe and Australia rich horse-riding traditions appeal children sometimes as as young as eight years old. Though Army dominates, the field it doesn’t stop civilians from trying the sport.
Change is constant
There is nothing beyond change, and now some corporates are showing interest in Polo. BLK, specialty hospital managed by Radiant Life Care announced its association with Baroda Cup recently. “It is a very old tournament of India and by associating ourselves with it we would like to endorse the need of wellness and fitness. Today obesity is a big problem and that is because of inactivity. Through this association, I would like to bring people to a high energy sport and let them embrace fitness,” Abhay Soi from the wellness group said. Another hope is to let real estate take up Polo the way it picked Golf.
Men vs Women
Samir Suhag, Arjuna Awardee played with a woman Polo player in an overseas tournament, “She was as good as men!” he said. Major Sameer Choudhry is bewildered why Indian women are not open to it, “I don’t know why we don’t have women Polo players in India… Maybe only a woman can tell,” he said. We revisit what Nafisa Ali said at the announcement of Jodhpur Cup. “It is such an aggressive sport that I associate it to men. I love the synergy between man and horse,” she said. Time that women establish that synergy too.