Sundeep Bhutoria

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jaipur polo season gets off on a sad note

January 19, 2013: The polo season in Jaipur, which is on full swing, got off on a sad and tragic note. Two of the horses died in front of our eyes while a match of the H H Sawai Bhawani Singh Cup at the Ramabagh Polo Ground was in progress on Wednesday. Both the horses, Koyal and Pithufa, were part of the team Sahgal Stud which was playing against IPG Rajasthan. It is probably the first time that two horses have died in one match.
Koyal was the first horse to collapse and die four minutes into the game. Doctors tried in vain to revive Koyal which belonged to Rampratap Singh Diggi, owner of Diggi Palace, the venue for the Jaipur Literary Festival. The play was stopped for an hour.
However, even before Koyal's death sunk in, tragedy struck again in the fourth chukker when the Argentine horse Pithufa crashed to the ground. Five minutes later, the horse was declared dead, marking the worst day in India's polo history.
Yesterday evening I attended a dinner of Rajasthan Polo Club annual dinner. I just dropped in for half an hour as I had other pressing engagements. Today afternoon I also went to the polo grounds to watch a very very interesting match between Bank of India and Baria which was a final match under Maharaj Prithi Singh Baria Cup-2013.
Col Maharaj Prithi Singh was born on 6th June, 1911, and died in a tragic TWA air crash near Cairo on 30th August, 1950. He was the son of Lt Col Maharaj Nahar Singhji, brother of the ruler of Devgad Baria, His Highness Sir Ranjit Singh KCSI.
It was H H Sir Ranjit Singhji who introduced the game of polo in Baria in 1906. He made sure that his son, Maharaj Kumar Sobhak Singh and his nephew Raj Kumar Prithi Singh, were taught polo in Baria as well as Mayo College, Ajmer. The cousins were very close to each other and had represented the school in polo in their mid teens. This was around 1925 when the Jodhpur polo team led by Rao Raja Hanut Singh was making waves in the polo world in England.
The cousins, with two other players, formed the Baria Polo team between 1926 and 1931 and earned a name for themselves as an excellent polo team. H H Sawai Man Singhji, the then ruler of Jaipur State, formed a team along with Rao Raja Hanut Singh and Rao Raja Abhay Singh from Baria. He chose Raj Kumar Prithi Singh, Rao Raja Hanut Singh, who and already made a name for themselves in England and played to a high handicap. He helped to train and patronised the team.
By mid-1932 they were ready to take on the world, they left for England early 1933 with 40 top class polo ponies. They formed the famous Jaipur Polo Team, which won all the trophies that were on offer. Prithi Singh played as a forward player in the team which swept England in 1933, a standard of polo that India has never witnessed since then.
Handicapped at eight, Col Prithi Singh soon gained recognition and if the Ward had not interrupted further tournaments, there was strong possibility that he would have attained the highest handicap in the game. He was the Secretary of the Indian Polo Association and his untimely death was a great loss to India and the game of polo. In the history of Indian polo, Prithi Singh Baria was a legend.
In the final match for the cup named after him turned out to be a very interesting match. Samsheer Ali, who was handicap of +6, played superbly netting 4 goals. After many ups and downs in the match the scope of which was 1:4 soon became 4:4 then 5:5 and finally the Bank of India won.
A new range of BMW cars were on display. BMW was the co-sponsor of the match. The polo grounds provides a perfect ambiance in this weather for cheese and wine which was served during the match. To night I shall fly back to Kolkata.
ess bee

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