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.