the-south-asian Life & Times                       July-Sep 2011




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Team India Advances to FIP World Championships

indian Polo Team wins Zone D Qualifier
Team India wins Zone D Qualifiers and advance to World Cup


Team India has won the Asian-Australasian-African Polo Championships – their first international polo title away from home in 50 years - and advanced to the Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Championships after defeating Pakistan 12-9 in the Finals. The championships also serve as the seven-nation Zone D Qualifier for the 2011 FIP Polo World Cup Finals to be held in San Luis, Argentina from Oct 11-25.


Team India, led by team captain Col Tarun Sirohi, were undefeated in the tournament with wins over pre-tournament favourites Australia, hosts Malaysia, and defending champions South Africa. They will now look to keep the momentum going as they head for San Luis – and hopefully will return home victorious once again.

It was an Indian sub-continent final in the Asian-Australasian-African Polo Championships played at the Royal Selangor Polo Club in Kuala Lumpur.  India defeated Pakistan 12–9, thanks to Samir Suhag’s five goals and Simran Shergill’s four. Both the finalists had played the two seeded teams in the semi-finals. India had dethroned defending champions South Africa with an impressive 9-5 win (South Africa’s Lance Watson scored all the five goals for his team), while Pakistan,  with a 1 ½ goal advantage, put up a remarkable fight back in the last two chukkas to beat pre-tournament favourites Australia 8 ½ - 8.

India’s Samir Suhag (Handicap 5) was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament – 21 goals in four matches! A jubilant Vikram Rathore, India’s Team Manager, said: “This is the best polo team India has assembled in over 20 years. We have remained unbeaten here and we are improving with every match.”


The journey to this historic victory began in the month of May on the blistering plains of Jaipur, where the team assembled for a week-long fitness and conditioning camp, soon after which they left for Jakarta, Indonesia, at the invitation of Nusantara Polo Club. This was not a pre-tournament R & R. It was three weeks of gruelling regimen in match practice and match fitness in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers. The team acclimatized to the humid conditions and got used to playing on different horses. The practice games in the humid weather helped them a great deal in the tournament games in Malaysia.  


The team of five – Major Vishal Chauhan (+2), Major Ravi Rathore (+3), Mr. Samir Suhag (+5), Mr. Simran Shergill (+4), and the team captain Col. Tarun Sirohi (+3) - arrived in Kuantan in the state of Pahang, Malaysia, on June 10th. The draws for the horses were held the following day and the team tried out the allotted horses for a couple of days. The Opening Ceremony on 13th June was where teams from the seven participating countries were formally introduced. This was followed by the first game of the tournament between South Africa & Nigeria.


The seven countries playing the Qualifier were Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, and hosts Malaysia. Of these, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were the seeded teams - based on their performances in the previous World Cup games.

Team India’s first game was against Australia on 14th June. They beat the pre-tournament favourites narrowly by 5.5 to 5.


India’s second game was against hosts Malaysia – a team that had been preparing for the World Cup for more than two years and had a six-month training and coaching stint in Argentina. India, however, made a change to the team for this game, resting their No 2 Ravi Rathore and instead played Simran Shergill. India defeated the hosts 12 – 5. Samir Suhag was on fire, scoring seven goals. This win took India to the Semi-finals, and they were drawn to play against tournament favourites and defending champions South Africa.  India’s team remained the same as in the previous game against Malaysia, and they beat South Africa   9 - 5. Samir Suhag scored five goals. And India was now to play Pakistan in the Finals. The rest, as they say, is history! The Indian team, still playing the same players as in the previous two games, won 12 -9. It was a well attended game at the Royal Selangor Polo Club in Kuala Lumpur with the Prime Minister of Malaysia -  Dato Seri tun Abdul Najib as the Chief Guest. Amongst the dignitaries were the Sultan of Pahang, the Chief of Army Staff of the Malaysian Army, and the Indian High Commissioner amidst thousands of supporters for both the teams. Former IPA Vice President HH Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur was there as well, to cheer and support Team India.   It was a double whammy for India – not only did they win the championship, they also had the Most Valuable Player of the tournament in their team – Samir Suhag! 


India will be among the ten teams to play the 14-goal FIP World Championships in Argentina later this year. Qualifying countries from the four zones are:

Zone A – USA & Mexico

Zone B – Brazil; (Argentina qualifies as hosts, and Chile qualifies as the defending champion)

Zone D – India, Pakistan, and Australia (after beating South Africa in the playoff for third placing).

Zone C - Villa a Sesta in Italy will host the Zone C qualifiers from 22 September to 2 October. The teams are yet to be decided but Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands and England are expected to participate.





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