‘Institutional support is much needed for the game’

An ardent polo enthusiast, Naveen Jindal has been playing the game for over three decades now.

naveen jindal, polo
Naveen Jindal

Naveen Jindal needs no introduction. The former Lok Sabha MP from Kurukshetra in Haryana currently serves as the chairman of Jindal Steel and Power and chancellor of OP Jindal Global University in Sonepat. An ardent polo enthusiast, the industrialist has been playing the game for over three decades now. In 1995, he started his own team called Jindal Panther Polo Team that has so far won various tournaments including the Indian Open, Indian Masters, Maharaja Hari Singh Memorial Cup, Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia Cup and the Bhopal Pataudi Cup. He was declared the most valuable player at the finals of Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia Gold Cup in 2019. In an interview with Kunal Doley, he talks about his interest in the sport, how he started playing, status of polo in India and his efforts to make polo more accessible to the masses. Edited excerpts:

You have been playing polo for so many years. What, according to you, is polo? How did you start playing the sport?

Polo is a team game. It teaches you teamwork and how to organise things better. In polo, each team member coordinates well with each other, respects each other, and plays in a disciplined manner to achieve results.

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I started playing polo 35 years ago at the age of 18. I was always fond of horses and horse riding. I joined the President’s Estate Polo Club as I wanted to do horse riding. There, I saw people playing polo and was quite fascinated by it. Thereafter, I started playing and got hooked on it.

Polo is an ancient sport and can also be called a national treasure since it originated in India. But it is still considered a niche sport. Why is it so?

Polo is one of the oldest team games in the world. Modern-day polo finds its origin in Manipur and is India’s gift to the world. Polo is considered a niche sport in places like Delhi, where there is less information about the game and the tournaments. If you witness polo in places like Jaipur, the situation is different. It’s the common people and crowd that come to cheer the game.

At the same time, do you think it is gaining ground and has a bright future in India as a sport? If so, why and how?

Polo is gaining ground but is still far from what it deserves. In India, we have young players coming up who have a love for the sport. Institutional support is much needed for the game. Youngsters need to be encouraged, and they need better facilities. We have promising players and a good talent pool.

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How is the private sector, including your organisation, promoting polo, a sport symbolic of royalty, luxury, and heritage? What about government support? Any push from training centres/clubs?

We have a polo team called Jindal Panther and have our facilities in Delhi-NCR where young players practise and hone their skills. There are a few other business leaders too, who love playing polo and are giving back to the sport. Sujan and Sona polo teams are a few examples. The Army Polo and Riding Club, too, provides grounds, support and amenities to players from non-army backgrounds as well. A lot more needs to be done by everyone to make the sport more accessible; we will do our bit.

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First published on: 09-04-2023 at 02:00 IST