As Team India gets set for the World Championships, Poornima Koonath delves into the history of the sport
India and Polo have a long-standing history. Though the game of polo was brought to India by the Persians, the modern version of the game is traced back to Manipur, the North-Eastern state of India. The game was called ‘Sagol Kangjei’ or ‘Pulu’. In fact, the Royal Chronicle of Manipur, Cheitharol Kumbaba, gives an account of a Polo match as early as 33 A.D. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, in East India in 1833. Polo is believed to be one of the three forms of hockey that was played in Manipur, the other two being field hockey and wrestling-hockey.
The Indian Polo team is coming to Sydney to participate in the 11th FIP World Polo Championship which is held every three years. This is the second time that Australia is hosting the championship, the first one being in Melbourne in 2001
The oldest polo ground in the world is the Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur. Major General Joseph Ford Sherer (then a Lieutenant), the father of modern polo is said to have played on this ground in the 1850s. History chronicles that it was during the Christmas Race week in Kolkata, in 1862 that the game of polo was played in public for the first time. In 1863, Joseph Sherer visited Kolkata and set up the Calcutta Polo Club, the oldest Polo club in the world.
Though regular playing of the game started in 1605 with newly framed rules of the game, it was Mughal emperor Babur who popularised the sport in India. Military officers imported the game to Britain in the 1860s. British colonisation of territories around the world is credited with the spread of the sport worldwide in the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, Polo is played in more than 77 countries, with 16 of them playing the sport at the professional level.
The Indian Polo team is coming to Sydney to participate in the 11th FIP World Polo Championship which is held every three years. This is the second time that Australia is hosting the championship, the first one being in Melbourne in 2001. There are eight teams competing in two different pools, Pool A and Pool B. India is in Pool B along with defending champion Chile, England, and New Zealand. Australia is in Pool A with Argentina, Spain, and United States. The seven players in the Indian team are, Angad Kalaan, HH Padmanabh Singh, Col Ravi Rathore, Dhruv Pal Godara, Pranav Kapur, Siddhant Sharma and Uday Kumar Singh Kalaan. The Indian team has a good balance of some very experienced and some quite young players. Between them they have a combined experience of more 100 years of Polo playing. Being placed in the same pool as defending champions Chile, it will be interesting to watch India’s progress in the tournament. Wishing the Indian team all the very best!
Introducing the Indian Polo team to the readers of The Indian Sun:
Angad Kalaan: One of the senior members in the team, Angad started playing Polo when he was 18 years old. He has represented India since 1998 and has been a member of the FIP Indian world Cup team four times. He captained India against England and Spain in 2007 and has played in many prestigious tournaments across the globe. Some of the countries are South Africa, Iran, UAE, Zambia, USA, Jordan, UK, Singapore, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand, Kenya, Barbados and Jamaica. He won the Indian National Championships in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2012 and has won the Northern India Polo Open seven times. He has several goals to his credit too.
Dhruv Pal Godara: Dhruv Pal started playing Polo when he was 16 and has been playing for the past 24 years He has played in many tournaments which include the World Championship Polo, Indian Open, Pakistan Open and international matches against England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. He has played in Australia, Switzerland, South Africa, Germany, Zambia, England, Pakistan and Iran.
HH Padmanabh Singh: At 19 years, Sawai Padmanabh Singh, is the youngest member of the team. However, he has played many matches in the last six years. He has won the Indian open, the Indian Masters, the Sirmour Cup and most other top competitive tournaments in India over last 4 seasons. He also participated in the FIP Zonal playoffs in Iran and the Ambassadors Cup at Polo Escape in Thailand. Other than in India, Padmanabh has also played in England, Germany, Argentina, USA, Thailand, Iran, Italy, Switzerland, Colombia, UAE and China.
Pranav Kapur: From Bangalore, Pranav has been playing for the past five years. He has played in the Indian Open and aspires to be the best player in Asia and win the Polo World Cup.
Col Ravi Rathore: Col Rathore has been Polo since he was 13 years old. He has played in the FIP World Polo Championships four times, in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2014. This will be his fifth FIP Championship. He has participated in the Indian Polo Championship and Indian Masters. He was also part of the team that played test matches with Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and Argentina. Col Rathore played in the SAF games and the International Military Tournament. He has played polo in many countries that include Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, China, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, Poland, France, Italy, England, USA, Canada, Argentina and Zambia.
Siddhant Sharma: The 24-year-old has been playing Polo since 2010, and has represented India against England in the U21 and played in the Asia Cup in 2016. He has played games in China, South Africa, Zambia, England and Iran. In India, he has played in all the major tournaments, the highest being the Indian Open.
Uday Kumar Singh Kalaan: He started playing Polo from when he was 17 years old and has been playing for the past 26 years. The major tournaments he played include the Indian Open, the Northern India Open, the Africa Cup, the Barbados Open, the Open de Paris and the Kings Cup. The countries he played polo include South Africa, Kenya, Jamaica, Barbados, Argentina, USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Dubai, Pakistan and Thailand. He represented India in the FIP World championship in 1995, Test series against South Africa and Barbados and the SAF games and also played matches in New Zealand and Zambia.