It wasn’t just about battling a match of the kings with the pomp and glitz of royalty. Rather it was fighting for a national pride.
The Hackett British Army dwelled into a competitive friendly game against the Indian Armed Forces, to commemorate 100 years of the end of world war I, when Indians played a major role in the British army. This was hosted at La Pegasus Polo Center in Gurgaon.
The match began with Sir Dominic Asquith, KCMG British High Commissioner to India, threw in the ball for the players, signalling to commence the game. He remarked, “I have been seeing this match for three years now, but it has been nothing like this before. The grandstand, the preparation and the teams are all remarkable.” Keeping the game tied closely, both the teams galloped fast to strike and defend the early attempts. However, the Indian Armed Forces showed great performance by lifting the British High Commissioner’s Cup at 7-5.
Polo in India has been synonymous with royalty, or the Indian Army, and not to mention the fancy hats and the pearls – a close-knit fraternity where everybody knows everybody. Even within the Army’s structured hierarchies, it is the Armoured Corps (the erstwhile cavalry) officers who have the best access, their children growing up watching polo matches like most do school football. Polo teams have specifically derived a number of officers from 61 Cavalry, one of the world’s last remaining non-ceremonial mounted regiments, and one that has seen many generations of individual families.
However, things are fast changing with widespread opportunities and polo is being seen as a sport rather than the king of games and game of kings. A couple of decades ago, if you wanted to ride, you would have to own a horse. All this changed in the ’90s, with the rise of polo clubs. Today, there are schools investing in the sport, pushing this change. La Pegasus Polo Centre, owned by Sanjay Jindal of Jindal Drugs, and helmed by Col Sirohi has developed a full-fledged polo academy on the outskirts of Gurgaon. The first of its kind in India, it is set across 300 acres, with 60 horses, and is the only one to get accredited by the Asociación Argentina de Polo (AAP) — which, in its 96-year history, has so far accredited facilities only within Argentina (considered the world’s number one polo playing nation), says Col Sirohi.
While the facility is not in the heart of town — and takes you across dirt tracks, past Haryanvi women milking cows, and turbaned men smoking hookahs — it is accessible if you live in the suburbs.
It is understood, for about Rs 14,000, you will get 12 classes a month, and when you are ready to buy a horse, there are stabling facilities that include grooming, feeding, and vet cover at Rs 25,000 a month.
The center, formerly known as the Gurgaon Polo and Equestrian Club, is located at the foothills of the Aravalli hills and is spread across 300 acres, making it the largest private Polo and Equestrian facility in the country.