Hyderabad: The recent HPRC International Women’s Arena Polo Tournament, jointly staged by the HPRC, Polo Yatra and United States Polo Association (USPA) had everything a sports fan would look for–high action, entertainment and glamour. Although no player had a handicap higher than one, with just half a point separating the two teams, the final between the UK and USA had its share of thrills and spills.
These kept a goodly crowd glued to the elevated galleries, which gave them a ringside view of the happenings unfolding before their eyes. A giant screen relayed the action too. For those who couldn’t quite follow the proceedings, Sharad Saxena’s flawless commentary regaled the audience even while enlightening it about the sport’s finer points.
Telangana’s Director General of Police Anjani Kumar, who was the chief guest, opened the final with a ‘throw-in’ to signal the start of the first ‘chukker’ or period of play, lasting about seven minutes. The ball is generally tossed in the middle of two teams lined up against each other by the umpire but the organisers gave that a twist by inviting celebrities to do the honours.
The three subsequent chukkers commenced with the orange-coloured ball being flipped in by Jennifer Larson, Consul General, USA Consulate General, Hyderabad, Tollywood actor Sumanth and Tejaswini Chowdhury. Fresh mounts from the HPRC’s 90-strong stable arrived for each session, their tails neatly braided, their feet carefully bandaged.
Sure enough, not a single horse misbehaved ! Thereon, but for game and clock stoppages for infringement of rules, it was non-stop action, even when the ball ricocheted off the walls.
The 18-5 scoreline in UK’s favour left little doubt about the superior side. Led from the front by Rosanna Turk, her compatriots Alice Walsh and Kristina Karailieva vibed well with their captain on marauding runs by the minute. Turk, adjudged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the championship, attacked with aplomb.
Her neck shots propelled the sphere forward, her hits from close or long range invariably finding the mark. So did her backhanders result in accurate passes to teammates, to carry forward their cause, or were dogged in defence of their citadel.
Carolyn Stimmel, the American skipper, showed a lot of grit and gusto. Few would believe she’s a grandmother, her husband and four sons, all active polo players, back home. Cecily Coors, a winner of the 2022 US Open Women’s polo championship and the International Women’s Invitational in Jamaica in 2022 and 2023, turns out for the Denver Polo Club in Colorado. Surprisingly, she was mostly a reserve in the final !
But the foursome from the USA was most gracious, their resounding defeat no deterrent to their good cheer. So was the side generous in its compliments for the victors who had vanquished them. That bonhomie was carried over to the valedictory function too. Members of the two international teams and India, which finished third, were all praise for the quality of the horses and the good care taken of them by the grooms.
If the success of a tournament can be gauged by feedback from its players, the fun and laughter that followed was enough evidence that it went down well with everyone involved. The loudest clapping was perhaps reserved for Chaitania Kumar, President, HPRC, who kept a low profile but made sure everyone had a good time.
Ms Larson and Gareth Wynn Owen, Deputy High Commissioner of Great Britain, gave away the prizes.
Keystone Infra Pvt Ltd., Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Galaxy Impex, INHABIT and Shree Raj Jewellers sponsored the well-conducted tournament at the HPRC’s tastefully laid out premises in Aziz Nagar, Gandipet.
Author of ‘My way–The biography of M.L. Jaisimha’ (Apple Books, Amazon, Flipkart), A. Joseph Antony is on the commentary panels of Sony Sports, Doordarshan and Fancode and an ex-Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu.