Indian Polo Season 2021-22
The pandemic took away some fun of the last season, but the upcoming tournaments hold tremendous promise.
The return of the Indian Polo Season is just round the corner now and it will be false to say that enthusiasts aren’t excited about it. The pandemic took away some of the thrill in the past season, but it did not stop spectators from rooting for their favourite players through digital platforms. Now that the Covid norms are relaxed and the season is approaching, the zeal of the players is infectious, and ponies, groomers and everyone involved is excited. As India gets ready to welcome the sport of the kings to get into action, we bring to you a detailed insight of what the past season looked like and what can be expected from the coming season.
THE YOUNG GUNS
Last season, Indian polo witnessed a lot of young players participating in competitive tournaments. While some of the faces were fresh, there were some whose performances were top-notch. Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur (fondly known as Pacho or Pacho Jaipur) has an increased handicap that now sits at +4. Not only did he participate in almost all the tournaments in Jaipur, Delhi and Jodhpur, he also listed his name as the finalist and winner in some of the major tournaments. During the last season, he came out victorious in, Maharaja Jagat Singh Memorial Cup, Velocity 48 SMS Gold Vase, RMRM Gold Vase, Sirmour Cup, RPC Cup, Polo Factory Maharaja of Jodhpur Golden Jubilee Cup, Rajputana and Central India Cup, HH Maharaja of Jodhpur Cup, Sternhagen Bhavnagar Trophy, Baroda Cup, Sir Pratap Singh Cup, Velocity 48 Maharaja Hari Singh Memorial Cup, IPA National Polo Championship Open, Cavalry Gold Cup, among a few others. The young player also participated in a number of international tournaments. His excellent performance and eager participation in the tournaments in the Indian circuit was appreciated by “La Polo presents Los Polistas -- The Indian Polo Awards” held in association with the House of MBJ and Wedding Asia. He received the Los Polistas Young Polo Player Award. After his great performance in the last season, enthusiasts are looking forward to see him in action again.
Siddhant Sharma, a +4 handicap polo player, started off his polo journey on a path that was unexplored in his family. He decided to go for Polo after being a part of jumping. He shaped his own road galloping on the ponies and what a journey this player has. Siddhant Sharma was seen participating in almost all the zones of Indian Polo Season along with a few performances in international tournaments as well. With some major victories in Baroda Cup, Rajmata Gayatri Devi Memorial Cup and magnificent qualification in others, he outshone, and in the coming season a lot is expected from him and his mallet. Siddhant also received The Promising Polo Player Awards at The Indian Polo Awards.
At a handicap of +2, Kuldeep Singh Rathore is claimed to be one of the best at his handicap and position. In a recent interview with La Polo, he said: “My work at the polo field is to clear out the position for the player in attack. I love the pressure on the field. It brings out the best in you.” And it surely does. Kuldeep, like Pacho, has been a part of a number of tournaments, playing or managing. He has been victorious in tournaments like, Rajputana and Central India Cup, IPA National Championship Open, Army Commander’s Polo Cup, among others. Among the young guns expected to play this season is also Dhananjay Singh. At a handicap of +1, the player was seen participating in Delhi, Jodhpur and Jaipur during the last season. He has played a key role in teams like Jindal Panther, Sona Polo, and Sahara Warriors.
Vandit Golechha was missed on the field after he injured his shoulder during the early start of the Delhi Polo Season in 2019. He made a comeback last year and participated in a number of tournaments. He was promptly seen playing in Jaipur. While a lot of expectations were laid on him in the season before 2019, the polo field missed his fierce action for a while. It is hoped to see him return back this season.
Pranav Kapur, another young polo player, was injured in the April 2019 polo season. The player gave himself a good time to recover well and was seen playing in Arena Polo in Delhi in December 2019. He wasn’t seen much on the field in the last season, but has been prepping hard to shine his way through the upcoming season.
Naik Ravindra Mang became the first Sepoy to play on the Jaipur Polo Ground, New Delhi, in a competitive polo match. Because of his deep understanding of the game, he has shared the field with some of the best polo players in the country. To name a few, Simran Singh Shergill, Shamsher Ali, Dhruvpal Godara, Naveen Jindal, among a lot of his own generation. He received the Kashmir The Army Polo Player Award at The Indian Polo Awards. During the upcoming season, it is expected to see some of the really great talents of the younger lot with Hurr Ali in action. The player has participated on and off the last season. Ranshay Purohit, another young player, has a lot of skill to offer on the field. Another player, Sameer Mecca was 14 when he took people’s hearts with his performance at the competitive season in 2018-19. The player is now 17 and is expected to be playing this season.
The list of brilliant players do not rest here. Allan Shaun Michael, Raghu Ram, Vinay Mewara, Siddhant Singh, Hemandra Singh, Niklendra Singh Rathore, Naveen Singh, Venkatesh Jindal, Janmejai Singh and a lot more are expected to take over the field this season.
Simran Singh Shergill, Dhruvpal Godara, Col Ravi Rathore, Basheer Ali, Naveen Jindal, Abhimanyu Pathak, Pratap Kanota, Jaisal Singh, Sunjay J Kapur and Daniel Otamendi have ruled the field, bringing some major wins for their respective teams. Shamsher Ali, the +5 handicap polo player has been missed in action of late. His experience, skill and powerful shots were missed at large. Similarly, Samir Suhag did not participate in the last season. He was often seen umpiring and as a referee for various matches, but the game missed his lofty shots.
The last season had some magnificent performances and victories, but it had to compromise a lot in terms of gathering and celebrations. The grandstands at the polo field remained nearly vacant with only a small number of 100 allowed on the field. Also, the after-parties were omitted due to the pandemic.
Although the situation is controlled by the government through vaccinations and other preventive measures, the advisory would still suggest the practice of social distancing and mandatory use of masks at all times on the ground. Polo player Siddhant Sharma observes: “Of course having an audience in the grandstand is a booster for us. They participate in the match with us by cheering for their favourite teams. We miss them as much as they miss the field.” Another polo player, Emilio Urrea Kirby, while talking about his experience of Indian Polo said: “Polo here is different. The spectators make you feel like a celebrity.” The upcoming season brings forth a lot of expectations, and there’s an attempt to fulfil what was missed in 2020-21.