Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta (Kolkata) Sports, General > Cycle Polo, Poor Man’s version of the Royal Game

Cycle Polo, Poor Man’s version of the Royal Game

Cycle Polo

Poor Man’s version of the Royal Game

Polo reminds one of galloping horses and the sound of the wooden mallet hitting the bamboo ball. Polo, often termed as the “Sport of the Kings,” is played on horse back on a large rectangular field.

Chasing the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Chasing the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Each team consists of four players and the object is to score goals  by driving a small hard white ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled wooden mallet. The team with the more goals wins.

Over the years other versions of polo emerged with the horses being replaced by elephants and camels. But these beast of burden were expensive to maintain and the sports remained restricted to royals and the super rich.

Cycle Polo action with goal post in background

Cycle Polo action with goal post in background

But when horses and other expensive animals were replaced by the humble bicycle it became a common man sports.

In spite of the common man’s reach cycle polo has a royal origin. The maharajas’ loved polo and out of this love was born a different avatar of the game — cycle polo.

During off-season, the horse would be swapped for the bicycle and the kings would get back to their beloved game of stick and ball.

According to historic records the game of Cycle Polo was invented by retired champion cyclist Richard J. Mecredy in 1891 at Wicklow, Ireland. In the same year in October the first cycle polo match was played at the Scalp (County Wicklow) between Rathclaren Rovers and the Ohne Hast Cycling Club.

Trying a back hit, Cycle Polo, CC&FC

Trying a back hit, Cycle Polo, CC&FC

The first international match was played between Ireland and England in 1901. In 1908 London Olympics Cycle Polo was a demonstration sports and Ireland won the gold by defeating Germany in the finals.

Cycle Polo is played on natural grass lawns measuring 120 to 150 m in length and 80 to 100 m in breadth. Goal post are 4 m apart and 2.5 m high there is no cross bar and the ball passing through the bars is considered as a goal, there is no height restriction.

The mallets measure 1 m and the ball, which is a oversized tennis ball, has a diameter of 24 cm. The ball is usually bright orange in colour. Like horse polo the game is played only with the right hand. The cycles are ordinary non geared cycles, without the mud guard, bell and stand.

Action from the All India Cycle Polo Invitation Cup, CC&FC, Kolkata

Action from the All India Cycle Polo Invitation Cup, CC&FC, Kolkata

Each team consists of six players out of which four take the field. The game is divided in four chukkar of 7.5 minutes each with three 5 minutes break. Except for injuries substitutes can only happen during the breaks. The two umpires also operates on cycles and behind each goal stands the goal judge.

Fighting for the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Fighting for the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Just like horse polo the game starts with the two teams line up along the central line and the umpire rolls the ball along the central line. The process is repeated after each goal, with teams swapping sides. Most of the other rules are same as the equestrian version but in cycle polo a player cannot have more than three consecutive touch on the ball.

Off they go..., Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Off they go…, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

A deliberate obstruction in the movement of a cycle leads to a foul. If a deliberate foul is committed at the vicinity of the goal, the team that is fouled is automatically given a goal. Less severe fouls are awarded 15 m and 25 m free hits. Yellow (warning) and red (ejection) cards are also part of the game.

A desperate tackle attempt, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

A desperate tackle attempt, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Unlike the equestrian version, which have been played in the city for centuries, cycle polo is relatively a new sports in the city. Calcutta Polo Club was formed in 1862 and runs the oldest and first ever Polo Trophy in the world, the Ezra Cup (1880).

Desperate bid for the ball, Cycle Polo

Desperate bid for the ball, Cycle Polo

Ever year during the winter months the horse hove kick up a storm at the Pat Williamson Polo Ground.

Located inside the Calcutta Race Course, it happens to be the the oldest active polo ground in the world.

The Cycle Polo Federation of India was founded in 1966 in Hyderabad but soon moved to Dunlod, Rajasthan.

It started in Kolkata in the early 1970s at the Calcutta Cricket & Football Club (CC&FC) with the support of various tea plantation companies. Founded in 1792 CC&FC, one the oldest sporting clubs of the country, is known for hosting Merchant’s Cup in football, cricket and hockey. Unknown to many the first Merchant’s Cup of CCF&C was for cycle polo, was started in 1972. Sadly it is no longer in operation.

A back flip, Cycle Polo

A back flip, Cycle Polo

At the turn of the millennium India emerged as the super power in Cycle Polo winning four consecutive International Cycle Polo Championship (1996, 1999, 2000, 201).

After 2008 the game of cycle polo went through a major transformation and game of Hardcourt Bike Polo evolved.

The number of players were reduced to three and was played on hard surface of the size of tennis or basket ball court.

The Hardcourt Bike Polo soon gain immense popularity pushing the traditional lawn based cycle polo to the back seat. But India continued with the traditional cycle polo played on grass lawns.

On he goes, Cycle Polo

On he goes, Cycle Polo

Although cycle polo is being played in India for over half a century it has not gained much popularity and is restricted in few pockets.

The service teams like Territorial Army, Army and Air Force have good teams so does states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Till recent years the Cycle Polo in West Bengal was restricted to CC&FC only but in recent years several of the players from the Ranaghat Cycle Polo Academy have made it to the state team. A brain child of horse Polo veteran Suvendro Mullick, the Ranaghat Cycle Polo Academy trains both boys and girls in cycle polo, for over a decade.

Girls fight for the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Girls fight for the ball, Cycle Polo, CC&FC, Kolkata

Although the Cycle Polo Merchant’s has long stopped but the CC&FC have come up with the All India Cycle Polo Invitation Cup and the third edition was held from 5 – 8 April 2018 at the CC&FC ground.

 

Action from a girl's Cycle Polo match, CC&FC, Kolkata

Action from a girl’s Cycle Polo match, CC&FC, Kolkata

Six teams participated in the men’s category while there were three in the women’s section. In the men’s section Territorial Army emerged victorious defeating a young and spirited West Bengal (B) 12 – 10. In the women’s final it was a one sided match with West Bengal (A) thrashing Utter Pradesh 15 – 0.

Note: All the photos were shot during the third edition of All India Cycle Polo Invitation Cup held at CC&FC on 5 – 8 April 2018

Special Thanks:

  • A special thanks to Dipak Lal (Captain) and Anirban Sen (Secretary) Cycle Polo, CCF&C
  • A special thanks to match official Rajaendra Pawar, the umpires and the entire tournament management committee
  • But the biggest thanks goes to the Cycle Polo players who made the tournament a grand success
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