Of high speed, brute power and sharp skills

Updated: Feb 12 2007, 08:18am hrs
Tall, dark, handsome and well-groomed gentlemen with taller, darker and sturdier horses are on the move once again. This time for the Delhi polo season. In run-up to the World Cup 2007played once every three yearsleading teams and horse lovers are teeming down at the Jaipur Polo Ground.

There are five tournaments, scheduled for the Delhi leg, before the World Cup playoffs in Auckland, New Zealand, and the Federation International Polo (FIP) World Cup 2007 in Mexico (September 2007).

Played in a field equaling five football fields taken together, polo is all about speed, brute power and courage with an element of risk.

The action packed game was a meant for kings and warriors to show off their courage and skills. Every polo player knows the risk. Times have changed but the notion still remains.

Every polo player used to get injured while playing, says Major Adhiraj Singh, captain ASG. An Arjuna awardee in equestrian, he left the Army to make polo a popular sport across India.

The equestrian sport evolved some 2,500 years ago in Persia and made its way to India through Manipur. Falling in love with this sport, some British officers established the Calcutta Polo club, in 1852. Till date the club is the oldest polo club in world.

The game flourished during the Mughal Empire, but it is the Indian Army, which kept the game alive post-Independence.

No millionaire could have done, what the Army did for the game, says Singh, who himself is a pro-polo player. The game as exclusive as elusive got a boost from Yashodhra Raje Scindia. She helped to bring in sponsorships and celebrities and added glamour to the sport, adds Singh.

A little known fact is that Prince Charles of Wales and Prince Harry are also polo players, like many of their counterparts elsewhere.

Noticing the glamour quotient of this niche sport, corporates are also joining the bandwagon. Many business bigwigs like UB groups Vijay Mallya, Jindal groups Naveen Jindal and Sona Koyo head Sunjay Kapur now have their own teams.

The king of games is still the game of the kings. This may be the reason, why pride is more important than the prize money in this sport, says Uday Kalaan, captain of the Haryana Polo Club.

With high-profile politicians, celebrities becoming a part of audiences, brands like Bentley, Mercedes, Porche and Bvlgari are also getting associated with this game. Its a way to market brands, out of the clutter, says Singh.

However, at the international level Argentines rules. They have been the uninterrupted world champions since 1949.

According to senior players, Argentines have developed a different breed of horses for polo. They (the horses) have better maneuverability and strength compared to thoroughbreds in India.

Many teams are bringing the best Argentine polo ponies and players this time. Its going to be a good competition ahead, says Basheer Ali. He plays for Kingfisher.

The Delhi leg should help us to put up a better performance at the World Cup, says Abhimanyu Pathak, an Indian probable for the World Cup.

So, if you wish to see the fastest and furious of horsepower this season, the address is Jaipur Polo Ground. A few of the worlds top rated players and best horses will be there.