Sanjay Jindal: “Polo Needs More Recognition in India”by Opinion Express December 14, 2018 0 comments
When polo was first played in India in 1836, there were loud trumpets reverberating in the background, men in military moustaches hovered charmingly while the swish of French chiffons added an aura of mystique to the proceedings. There were British kings and Maharajas of the princely states who brought a royal touch to the sport, which is even today called ‘The game of kings.’
Sanjay Jindal, patron of the La Pegasus Polo, says that “Polo for most of the population is still a luxury, considering the amount of investment one needs to make to be involved in it.”
He believes that in this game, “your sports equipment is an animal that costs anywhere between Rs 10 to 50 lakh to own and add another Rs 30 to 50 thousand per month to own and upkeep these partners.” And for each match, every player needs at least six to eight horses — one for each chukker. He says that Polo also requires real-estate not just in terms of the playing grounds, but also a shelter for horses and their training.
So how has the tradition of the sport evolved over the years? Jindal believes that the sport, though “remains to be an elite activity and can be brought to more people,” can never become a “mass” sport. He says, “There are a few erstwhile royal families who are involved in the sport, but it is very much like their participation in some other sport to inculcate fitness, hard-work and leadership values in their life. At La Pegasus, our goal was to draw not just sportsmen to the grounds, but also draw spectators to share the spectacle across the world and keep its tradition growing.”
He believes there have been significant efforts across the country to revive the sport’s popularity. “However,” he says, “Since Polo is an expensive sport, its revival is a huge task. Unlike cricket or soccer, which people celebrate in gullis and mohallas, and nooks and corners of every city of the country, polo requires significant effort, upkeep and investment.”
If there are supporters, they are industrialists, businessmen and professionals, who are “chipping in to play, support and bring in new blood to the sport. Unfortunately, we are always playing catch-ups despite having an abundance of talent and thoroughbred ponies in India. We are not able to compete with countries like England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and the US. So, we are not quite there yet.”
One of the reasons that the sport hasn’t penetrated deeper in the country is because it is prohibitive. Jindal tells us that polo can never be easily affordable as it needs time, energy and a lot of money. He says, “The vision behind La Pegasus Polo centre was to make it accessible to people who despite having the money and means are not able to play it.”
Moreover, most Polo facilities across India are either exclusive clubs supported by royal families, army establishments, embassies or private clubs, which outs it further out of reach of a common man. For instance, the one in Jodhpur is supported by its Maharaja. The Rajasthan polo club is run independently but supported by the royal family of the Pink City.
“On the other hand, if you compare army establishments such as the 61st cavalry establishment in Jaipur and Delhi, La Pegasus Polo might just be more expensive or at par with private clubs such as the Amateur Riders’ Club in Mumbai. But we are the only ones in the country working towards meeting the global standards at prices where we do not seek profit, but manage expenses well to offer the adequate quality required, for players to make a mark internationally,” he adds.
While the kingdoms and Britishers may be long gone, the sport has evolved to become more democratised than just being a ‘royal’ one. Today it’s known for team spirit as more professional players enter the game without a royal link. So does it complement corporate philosophy?
Jindal believes that any sport, whether it is played individually or with a team, inculcates diligent values in the player that draw great relevance to corporate play. “Polo is definitely a game where all four players have to contribute to the win. The same philosophy can be extended to corporates, because at the end of the day any business house is only as good as the people within that company. From Polo, one surely learns the art of team work, persistence, working towards a common goal and these strategies can be adapted in business for success,” he says.
He says that even though La Pegasus Polo is only 10-months-old, it has made efforts to popularise the sport and increase its reachability. “One of our key focusses is to encourage younger aspirants to continue their involvement with the game and be able to improve their skills. In due course, we are looking to sponsor the growth of these aspirants to train in countries where the game is more evolved. This includes the likes of Australia, England, South Africa, Argentina, and the US.”
The centre recently clubbed with the British High Commissioner at his residency for a game to celebrate 100 years of the game and share its history and tradition in India.
Writer: Chahak Mittal
Courtesy: The Pioneer