The XI FIP World Polo Championship will be held for the first time in Sydney, Australia, commencing this weekend. It is an historic event, as after three years, eight international teams will be competing: Australia, UK, India, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and USA.
Opening day (Saturday, October 21): USA v. Argentina; Australia v. Spain
Sunday (October 22): India v. England; Chile (defending champion) v. New Zealand
Sunday (October 29): Final
India’s historic connection to this grand event started unfolding when India, Pakistan, South Africa and Iran played against each other in Teheran for Zone E qualification. India advanced to the World Polo Championship.
In India the sport today is commonly represented by Maharajas and army personnel and is supported by the business community. In Australia it has gained support from every part of society. Sydney is home to people of Indian origin from various parts of the world, and polo has become a common ground for the two nations.
The modern game of polo is derived from Manipur, India. It was brought to India by the Mughals and was played in several parts of the Indian subcontinent. Silcher in Assam is where the first polo club was established. It is the oldest polo ground in the world, where Major General Joseph Ford Sherer, referred to as the father of modern polo, played in the 1850s.
With the growing popularity of polo, the Calcutta Polo Club was established, since Calcutta was the second capital of the British Empire. The British Cavalry in India played polo with passion.
In the 1800s India and Australia shared a strong trade link with regular sea voyages between London, Calcutta and Sydney. It is believed that British Cavalry soldiers who came to Australia from India introduced polo to Australia. Under the British Empire, polo gained popularity in India and globally.
Some say that a retired British Artillery Officer from India introduced the sport of polo to the local township of Goulburn in New South Wales. In Australia, the four Ashton Brothers – James, Bob, Geoff and Philip – took to this new sport with vigor. They not only supplied horses to India from 1920 to 1928 but also played polo there.
Hector King is another famous figure in Australian polo history. In 1947 he and his brothers-in-law Jack, Larry and Ken Austin took 20 polo ponies to Jaipur and sold them after play to the Maharaja. In the same year, the Sydney Morning Herald stated that Kenneth Austin and brother in-law returned from India after two months of playing polo as guests of Maharaja of Jaipur.
This connection still exists today, as Indian and Australian polo players travel between the two nations to play. This historical connection between the two polo-playing nations remains as a core bond. Australian polo teams often visit Rajasthan or Manipur to play before Indian polo enthusiasts. In 2016 they won the Manipur Polo International.
INDIA: HH Padmanabh Singh (2), Pranav Kapur (2), Siddhant Sharma (3), Angad Kalaan (4), Dhruv Pal Godara (5), Col Ravi Rathore (5) (player and manager), Uday Kalaan (5) (coach)
AUSTRALIA: Jack Archibald (5), Alec White (5), Jake Daniels (4), Dan O'Leary (3), Jack Kiely (3), James Lester (3), Lachie Gilmore (2), George Hill (2), Alex Barnet, (2) James Harper (coach)
More information about the XI FIP World Polo Championship: wpcsydney.com
About the author: Indranil Halder is a lifetime member of the NSW Polo Association and has strived to increase awareness of polo in India and Australia. This article was excerpted from his preview of the XI FIP World Polo Championship published by Indian Newslink.