Bangalore's weather makes it an ideal centre for a regular polo season
The grooms led the horses away and the men and women disappeared for tea into the pavilions. The grandstand emptied; officers, seated in the front row sipping tea out of porcelain cups during the game, drove away in their cars and jeeps. Gone too were the subalterns, previously assembled a little away, in their close-cropped hair and magnificent orderliness, applauding every shot struck and goal scored under the late-afternoon sky.
The Indian polo season trotted to a close in Bangalore on Sunday evening with the conclusion of the 8-goal tournament, the USPA Cup, and although a rainstorm wrecked the final, forcing Karvy Navy and 61 Cavalry to share the trophy, a keenly-contested arena-polo friendly ensured that those gathered left the Agram grounds entertained.
The final of the 6-goal tournament, on Saturday, though, witnessed a thoroughly invigorating tussle, with host ASC scoring a ‘sudden death' winner to edge Karvy Navy 7-6 to the title.
Although the city has not been a permanent fixture on the Indian calendar, the Bangalore Polo Season drew some of the country's top teams and players, including those who are part of the National side due to take part in the World Cup qualifiers in Malaysia in June. Col. Tarsem Singh, a +3 handicap player (a handicap in polo ranges from -2 to 10, and unlike in golf, is an indication of how good a player is) representing ASC, felt Bangalore's weather gave it a distinct advantage over other cities. “Polo is a sport that cannot be played in extreme heat,” he said. “So, Bangalore will be an ideal summer centre.” Samir Suhag, arguably the country's best player (+5), concurred with him.
“Bangalore is currently not one of the major centres (Jaipur and Delhi remain India's polo hubs),” he said, “but it has the potential to be. You won't find another place like this.” On the subject of the World Cup itself, Suhag felt India would fare well. “We have very high expectations this year,” he said. The team also includes Col. Tarun Sirohi, Maj. Ravi Rathore, Maj. Vishal Chauhan, and Gaurav Sehgal. “This is basically the 61 Cavalry team, and we've won 18 tournaments this year. We'll prepare for 20 days in May and then head for Malaysia.” For the rest (with the exception of the few professional players who go abroad to play), however, the break represents a period of preparation until the next season commences in September. “We train new horses,” Col. Singh explained. “In the meantime, we have to give these time to rejuvenate. Horses need some rest too.”