For a country that is mad over 22 yards by the Surveyor’s Chain, most other sports are just there. The Jurassic age debate will never shift to the other side. Easily, the media takes the blame. Not for covering too much of cricket, but for not covering other sports.
The favourite for royals, Polo also had an off season. However, the blue blood had to keep them fit. They turned to a sport which Richard J. Mecredy (Ireland, 1890s) devised – cycle polo. With horses being less in number, post War, the regiments started playing the sport as well. Gradually, it took the interest of the junta and spread around the nation.
The inaugural International Bicycle Polo Championships were held at Richland, USA in 1996. Canada settled for Bronze. The home team won silver. And, voila! India won the Gold. The next edition was in Vancouver, 1999. The home team this time got bronze. Like the previous, USA won silver. India won the gold, again.
Come October, 2000 it was New Delhi’s turn to host the third installment of the world championships. USA slipped from the last time to win Bronze. Canada bettered from the last two championships to win Silver. India got their act right again, to win the third straight Gold.
In 2001 the Championship went to London, where France emerged as a team to reckon with their Bronze winning performance. Canada won a consecutive Silver. With glory only comparable to Field Hockey, the Indian National team walked away with their fourth consecutive cycle polo world championship Gold.
However, that was the last Gold which came home. Out of the next three editions, India won a Bronze each in Paris (2002) and Vancouver (2004). They also did not participate in the 6th edition at Florida (2003).
Four houses out of ten in India own a bicycle. The nation is also the second largest producer of bicycles in the world. Yes, we are a nation not noted for cycling abilities as far as sports is concerned, but here is a game which incorporates two elements of rich Indian history. The game could be read as a perfect leveler. A bicycle used for regular transportation is symbolic of one’s social status. The same goes for a round of a game of polo. The two very opposite motifs of the society culminate into this unique sport. However, cycling as leisure is experiencing a revival in the society. The capital, New Delhi is soon to see dedicated cycling lanes all over the city. Pune became the first Indian city to have separate cycling lanes in 2008. Ironically, this was this was a part of the city’s preparation for the Youth Commonwealth Games it was hosting. Although, it features in the National Games, it is far away from an Olympic dream with absence in Commonwealth and Asian Games. The irony in fact here is that every world championships saw podium finishes for at least one country from three different continents – India, USA and Canada and France. The championships have also been held in three different continents.
The Cycle Polo Federation of India runs a website. A website, which has not been updated for quite some time now. Yet, it gallantly bears a list of the who’s who of the federation. It is shameful that it does not carry the names of the members of the current cycle polo national team, nor of those wonderful men who won consecutive championships.
However, it has a comprehensive list of domestic tournaments. Chattisgarh and Kerala have been consistent performers, along with IAF and . However, the Federation is headquartered in Rajasthan. I do not mean it should be in the neighbouring state of God’s land. It should rather be in the capital or in a city where it is capable of getting sponsors. This is one sport definitely needs a big, big boost.
However, all does not look bad. Following the given link ( http://www.cyclepolo.com/audit-2010.pdf) would lead one to the financial statement of the CPFI for the year ending on 2010. The figures look nice for an almost discreet sport.
The CPFI did organize tournaments versus Pakistan. For the dwindling hockey matches, a clash against the men in green does draw large crowds. It should be no different for any other sport. In all fairness, the two nations do play their sport against each other with full gusto. But, there was not much media coverage or rather wide media coverage. Also the international matches against Malaysia, Indonesia and the likes. The fact of the matter is that India does extremely well in such performances. They strike gold with very good scores.
The website does not mention of world championships post 2004. One could deduce that there were no world championships after that, or India won no chest decoration after that.
This article is just an attempt to make more people know about this wonderful sport that needs 150m *100m field of play and 4 players on each side.
This is an earnest plea to Kumar Yashwant Singh, President of Asian Cycle Polo Federation. Bring the glory back, Maharaja of Alwar, also.
It feels sad to have tagged this under ‘other sports’.