Hooves that celeb? The polo season kicks off | brunch$feature | Hindustan Times
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Hooves that celeb? The polo season kicks off

With a nip in the air, watching riders astride thoroughbreds chasing a ball in full gallop is the cognoscenti’s idea of a Sunday afternoon well spent

brunch Updated: Oct 22, 2016 20:33 IST
With quick turns, ride-offs and other special manoeuvres, it calls for tremendous hand-eye coordination
With quick turns, ride-offs and other special manoeuvres, it calls for tremendous hand-eye coordination

The melee involves animal and rider. The canter turns into a gallop, the mallet comes down hard and the hooves kick up a storm. It’s that time of the year again. When the hooves-who of the Capital assemble this Sunday to watch the final of the I.L.A. Pasrich & Company Bhopal-Pataudi Cup 2016, it will mark the opening of the polo season for this year.

With a nip in the air, watching riders astride thoroughbreds chasing a ball in full gallop is the cognoscenti’s idea of a Sunday afternoon well spent.

Leading lawyer Amir Singh Pasrich, the main sponsor of the tournament, says polo is one of the most dangerous and exciting sports in the world. “With quick turns, ride-offs and other special manoeuvres, it calls for tremendous hand-eye coordination.”

But there’s more to polo than the adrenaline rush for the players and the audience. On the field, the hunky players gallop in the pursuit of glory. Off it, the chiffon set and the beautiful people bask in the sun and marvel at the synergy between animal and man. “The polo season (between mid-October and the end of November) is an important landmark on our cultural calendar. Apart from the players, it is also awaited with great anticipation by the sporting and fashion fraternity,” adds Amir Pasrich.

Lawyer Amir Singh Pasrich flanked by actress Sharmila Tagore (right) and his wife Shivani Wazir Pasrich

My memories of attending a few polo matches include a relaxed conversation over high tea with former Indian cricket captain, the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and his wife, actress Sharmila Tagore.

Industrialist Sunjay Kapoor (centre) during a match at Jaipur Polo Grounds (Hindustan Times)

What was Tiger Pataudi, India’s youngest cricket captain, doing at a polo tournament? Well, the Pataudis have been big patrons of the royal sport and the family lends its name to a prominent tournament.

The Bhopal Pataudi Cup is an established event designed to nurture amateurs who may participate along with professionals. The cup’s maximum cumulative team handicap is 8 goals, somewhat lower than the high goal 10, 12 and Open formats.

One of the famous regulars on the field is business magnate Sunjay J Kapoor (you may remember him as Karisma Kapoor’s former hubby). Did he bring Lolo to polo? Yes, he did to the tournament that I attended.

Another prominent industrialist-politician passionate about the equestrian sport is Naveen Jindal, the chairman of Jindal Steel and Power Limited. Leading from the front, Jindal often manages to steal the thunder from top polo professionals, leading his team into the finals of tournaments.

Industrialist Naveen Jindal is a familiar face on the polo ground and a champion player

A big tournament final usually attracts more than 500 of the city’s stiletto set. With the weather in autumn that is not chilly, but good enough for the society show ponies to flaunt their wardrobe, the audience gallery is a riot of colours with flamboyant headgear, hats and polo jackets. “Sometimes I fear spectators taking selfies will injure themselves as they lean back into the field oblivious of how close the horses are,” says Pasrich in jest.

With breeding ponies an exorbitant proposition, the elite circle of the well-heeled continue to patronise polo in the country.

When American playwright Clifford Odets remarked: “Sex – poor man’s polo”, he knew the royal sport would never hope to trickle down to the masses.

The hooves-who of the Capital appear to be living up to Odets’s prophecy.

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From HT Brunch, October 22

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