Sunday, October 02, 2005

Yeh chukker kya hai

Unexpected pleasure this weekend – sudden, unsought exposure to the world of polo. There was a Polo Ball on Friday and I went, lured by food, drink and dancing. Hadn’t quite focussed on the ‘polo’ aspect till we got there. Saddles, stirrups and riding paraphernalia adorned the entrance and the place was full of polo players. It turns out Hyderabad’s been having a ten-team tournament this past week. Polo, to me, was something only the raeeszaade indulged in, posh affairs that took place in Argentina and such. I was rather surprised at being so casually admitted into the daayra, bemused by its accessibility.

The dance devoted space to a series of polo illustrations by artist Sujata Dere. Natasha, who’s quite horse-mad, gave us a really informed overview of the game – the rules and the magic. Here’s a rough idea:

Polo is played on horses, four men to a team. Like hockey, the idea is to score goals.

Polo has the largest field in organized sport – 300 yards long and 160 yards wide.

Six chukkers – each with seven minutes play – make up a match. Four chukkers at this level, I think, because that’s how many they played yesterday.

Players are handicapped from -2 (beginners) to 10. Only half a dozen 10 handicappers in the world. A zero handicap would be ‘scratch.’

The rules of the game are heavily decided by the safety of the horses. Polo’s all about the line of the ball, an imaginary line along the direction of the ball. The player who strikes the ball has right of way and may not be crossed by another player. The trick then is to ride him off, ie ride alongside and force him to abandon his line. Basically, a matter of nerves. Cool, huh?

We were fascinated and it must’ve shown, because Natasha then said, ‘There are a couple of matches tomorrow. Want to come?’ Yes, of course.

The Bison Polo Grounds in Secunderabad are lovely, screened from the roads almost entirely by trees. Great weather also. There were two matches: the first between two AP Riding Club teams and the second between the NDA Navy and an Artillery team from Nasik.

An education to see how the different teams performed. The teams playing first were rather haphazard, which they made up for by individual brilliance – they had Samir Suhag, one of India’s two six-handicappers, and Dhruvpal Godara +5 on opposing sides. Both players also play for India. The second match had teams that were more even in quality – a clutch of scratches, ones and twos. They played a much more beautiful team game, scattering and coming together in an intricate dance. Speedier too.

Four players, but eight minds per team. Speed, precision, coordination, guts. Snorting horses, yells of ‘my line’ renting the dust. Fabulous.


the One said...

Ah, the sport of kings. Informative post. Muchly likeable was the pony goal thing on one of those polo sites .. did you see a pony goal?

cbrao said...

Nice introduction to the sport of Polo.

Sheetal said...

The one: No, actually. Woulda been nice to.

Anonymous said...

It is good fun no? How was the ball, btw? And was Deepa Rao in evidence?

Sheetal said...

ohho, that was when! I'd forgotten. Nope, it wasn't there. Namitha and Nayare were.

medusa said...

polo, wild animals, rare birdsa dn insects, r u sure this is hyd?

Sheetal said...

medusa: :-) there's treasure everywhere.

kuffir said...

thanks for changing the colors in the background - but the green in the main post area still jars. but if you insist on green why don't you replace the white in the sidebar with it..and leave the post area white ? further muft advice : get rid of the stripes in the sidebar.
i admit it's a vast improvement over the earlier autorickshaw yellow-chocolate maruti tan combination but couldn't you find a more soothing-to-the-reader's-eyes green in colormatch?