By: Tania Saili Bakshi
Pic Courtesy: Abha Saili
Mussoorie, 12 Apr: History was in the making when after a gap of over eighty years, the famed Happy Valley’s Polo Ground resounded to the thunder of hooves. In what is easily the world’s highest Arena Polo Field, Happy Valley hosted its first game of six chukkers on 8 April with teams competing for the coveted Happy Valley Civil Services Arena Polo Cup.
From the clip-clop of horses’ hooves as they entered the Arena Polo Field with their riders, who were happiest on horseback, to see them thundering away with the ball and the mallet made for a captivating experience. The event showcased some of the most talented and skilled polo players of India. There are few things that can match the thrill of watching Shamsheer Ali, India’s Polo Captain, bouncing the ball across the field on his mallet’s edge while riding his horse at breakneck speed to score goal after goal.
The Happy Valley Arena Polo Cup was instituted by the President of India on 9 December, 2022, and the first polo game was held this week. Of course, horse-riding has been an integral part of the training of Officers’ Training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. Twenty-seven horses under the guidance of instructors on deputation from the President’s Bodyguard, the elite cavalry regiment of the Indian Army, hone horse riding skills, but Arena Polo is a whole other ball game and is played in 77 countries around the world. One of the oldest team sports, it finds its roots in the early 1900s in various places as far apart as the United States and Argentina. It continues to attract a new generation of players and fans. An exciting and challenging sport offers a unique twist on the traditional game of polo, played indoors or in an enclosed outdoor area, in any kind of weather and it leaves very little room for error. It remains the ultimate adrenaline rush for, both, the players and the audience.
Arena polo is a fast paced equestrian sport. Tools of the game include a horse, its rider, a small ball and a light mallet. A sport in which elegant and royal polo lifestyle entwine. With an amazing eye for detail, the enclosure has been made by interlocking and can be dismantled within an hour.
The picturesque field is an ultimate venue for any polo enthusiast. Teams from the Indo Tibetan Border Police, the Border Security Force and the Indian Military Academy competed for the coveted cup this year. Mussoorie’s largest field will finally show its potential as Uttarakhand will attract tourists to watch the King of Games or the Game of Kings. The State’s Tourism Department could easily start a fair or event, tailor made and then the day is not too far off when Arena Polo will be organised with a larger participation from other institutes. This could be done after ensuring wide publicity of the event well in advance.