No Horsing around

Want to play polo but can't ride a horse? Grab the mallet and mount your cycle instead
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Published on Jun 28, 2010 09:39 AM IST
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ByDhamini Ratnam
You've heard of polo played onhorses and in water. You'vealso probably seen picturesof people atop elephantsbending low with polo malletsin their hands. Now, how about agame of polo on your bicycle?

If this is the first time you've heardabout this sport, you're not alone. AnilUchil (40) and Firoza Suresh (39), membersof a popular networking websitefor cyclists called www.cyclists.in withmore than 3,600 members, haven'theard about the game either. "If someonewas doing this in our online cyclingcommunity, we'd have known," saidUchil.

Army officers and Maharajas duringthe British era played the game asa way of staying fit during the off-seasonof horse Polo, informs RaghuvendraSingh Dundlod, 58, president of theCycle Polo Federation of India. "Ourassociation was registered in 1966 andwe began holding state and nationallevelcycle polo championships," saidDundlod, who was part of the Indianteam that won a gold in the first WorldCycle Polo Championship held in 1996in Richmond, USA.

However, he added, a lack of fundingand proper infrastructure has preventedthe team from playing in anyWorld Championship since 2007.

Polo on wheels
The game, Suresh and Uchil agree,sounds rather interesting. Cycle polofollows the same rules as horse polo:there are four players in each team andthe aim is to get the ball through theopposing team's goal post. However,unlike the 54" or 52"-long mallets, theones used in cycle polo are shorter.Anything between 32" to 36" goes. Theball too is not the same.

"Initially cycle polo players used ahorse polo ball, but that was dangerous.Now, we use a special ball manufacturedby Cosco, which is slightly biggerthan a tennis ball and is orange incolour," said Dundlod.

It's not easy, given that the player hasto balance both the cycle and the mallet,and avoid crashing into the othercyclists around him. But that's whatexcites Uchil about this game. "It soundsextreme. Nice!"

Nagpur-resident Milind Patle, 35,who was part of the winning team inthe 2001 World Championship, said,"The most difficultthing about thisgame is makingback shots andones to the right,while riding thecycle." "But we playso fast that the ball isless on the ground,and more in the air,"added Patle, who waspart of the nationalteam for three consecutiveyears.

Before becoming anumpire for nationaland internationalcycle polo games, 19-year-old HajiraBegum, was parof the Chhattisgarh senior women'steam. The Hyderabad-resident beganlearning the sport in school under thePV Krishna, also a member of theFederation. "The most important thingabout this game is getting your balanceright. There should be a good understandingbetween members of theteam," she said.

Juhu-resident Suresh, herself an athlete,is curious about where to play thesport. "Very few parks in the city allowcycles," she said. Uchil agrees. "Thegame needs good infrastructure. It'sdangerous to play something like thison the street."

Want to paly the game?
The Cycle Polo Federation of India(www.cyclepolo.com) has a list of rules.
In Mumbai, the Mumbai UpanagarCycle Polo Association holds classesfor students of Chembur High School.Sharad Vavre, who is the secretary ofthe association coaches them. Call himat 9820112724. The Thane Zilla CyclePolo Association secretary is VilasWagh. Reach him on 9869584099.In Delhi, head to the Army Polo andRiding Club in Manekshaw Marg, DelhiCantt. (011- 25699444; armypoloclub@gmail.com)You want to pick up the gameyourself? Call Jaipur-residentAshok Sharma, whomakes mallets on9351451756. A stickcosts Rs 300 to350 and shippingcharges are extra.If you can't find thespecial Cosco poloball use a tennis ball.
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