T. F. (Thomas Francis) Dale.

Polo past and present online

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side take back the ball to their own goal-line.

I have in another part of this chapter given some
reasons for thinking that in the case of Rule 26 (off-
side) the penalty is too severe. Indeed, I am not
clear that this penalty is not too often permitted, and
that Penalty 2 would not meet the justice of the
case in a majority of instances.

The remaining Penalties, 5 to 10, explain them-
selves, and are intended either to discourage delay, or
to meet cases of foul play or disobedience to rules
referred to in the former part of this chapter.

Taking the rules as a whole, they appear to have
one leading error running through them all. Where-
ever it is possible the back players and the heavy
men are favoured, and the forward players, especially
No. I, are discouraged. This has several disad-

(i) It makes polo more expensive, and places
light men at a disadvantage.

(2) It keeps many men out of the game, for the
position of No. i under the present rules is dis-
couraging and mortifying. It is often practically
impossible for a No. i to do what he is told to do
and ride off the No. 4.


(3) The natural advantages to the heavy men
which are inseparable from the conditions of English
polo, where soft grounds, often much cut up, are
in favour of the heavy man and the big pony.

(4) It makes the games slower and therefore less
interesting to the spectators, a matter of no small
moment to clubs, which look for revenue from their
gate money.

(5) No man can play No. i long without spoiling
his ponies. This is notorious, and I wonder this
fact alone has never suggested the advisability of a
change. The game as played in England failed, as
we know, altogether to commend itself to the
American visitors, and players from India find it
difficult to keep their form. What we want is

(i) The abolition of bumping at an angle.

(2) The excision of the paragraph referring to the
the last striker and the substitution of a more clearly
worded definition.

(3) The modification of the "offside" rule in
such a way as no- longer to give such overwhelming
advantages to the defence, and to make No. I's task
easier and pleasanter.



The code of rules of the Indian Polo Association is
the best in existence, and is the result of great care
and thought, not only in the provisions for the due
ordering of the game, but also in the clearness and
precision with which these rules are worded. The
rules are always open to discussion, and the constitu-
tion of the Association enables the Committee; to
consider and accept any suggestion that is likely^ to
improve the game.

The Indian Polo Association was founded in
1 89 1, in order that there might be a central
committee to regulate the game, and also that the
authorities might have a responsible body with whom
they could communicate. Just before 1 891, as those

369 2 B


who were in India at the time will recollect, Indian
polo was passing through a very critical period.
There had been several serious and some fatal
accidents. Then the entry into the competitions
for the principal cups of teams from native states,
though not without its advantages in bringing about
a more friendly feeling between native gentlemen and
English officers, had nevertheless raised the price of
ponies. The supply of suitable country-breds was
soon exhausted, and Arabs began to be used more and
more. These, with a few excellent Australian and
New Zealand ponies, became the polo ponies of India.
They were very much more expensive than the
country-bred ponies. From 1881 to 1891 prices
went up by leaps and bounds, and, whereas I paid
about Rs. 150 apiece for my first ponies in 1881,
at the end of 189 1 I was asked Rs.900 for a very
moderate animal indeed, that was readily snapped up
at that price when I declined him. Although prices
had greatly increased, I do not think the ponies were
any better. I had some very good ones in earlier
days, and the average price was about Rs.250. Very
high prices were asked and given freely from 1887
to 1 89 1. Men who were not wealthy — and rich
men did not go to India in those days, or did not
stay long — had either to go into debt or economise
somewhere, and as most cavalry subalterns out of
fiction are sensible men, they economised.

It was felt, and not unjustly, that Government
made the officer's charger and expenses as heavy as
possible. At all events the rise in the price of ponies


was accompanied by a fall in the quality of chargers.
The military authorities could not but allow that
polo was an excellent game for soldiers, but it clearly
wanted regulating. With the wisdom and tact which
ruled the Indian army in those days, gentle pressure
was put upon the officers. They responded loyally,
the Indian Polo Association was founded and the
requirements of authority satisfied. All station,
regimental, and battery polo clubs were eligible to
become members. It was thus not a military polo
association only, although it has, greatly to its
advantage, been chiefly governed by soldiers. There
is a moderate entrance fee of Rs.5, and a subscription
of Rs.io, for all clubs. Native teams can be made
honorary members, but cannot vote. The association
is ruled by a committee elected by the annual general
meeting. No alteration of the rules or constitution
of the Indian Polo Association can be made except at
the general meeting. Clubs that are members of the
association can vote by proxy. But the number of
clubs whose representatives are present is usually
considerable, and those of station clubs (which include
civilians and departmental officers) average perhaps a
third of the whole number of the delegates. Every
change proposed is discussed first in committee and
then submitted to the members at the general
meeting, so that every one who is interested has a
chance of expressing an opinion and of voting.
Every year the Indian Polo Association publishes an
official Calendar in which the proceedings of the
year are carefully summarised and changes of the


rules notified, every member receiving a copy. The
excellence of the code of rules will be observed by
every one who will read the following pages. The
Indian Polo Association has increased the popularity
of polo and strengthened its position, so that polo
has survived the South African War, which might
otherwise have hit it very hard indeed, and finally
have killed it altogether for a time in India.

I have heard one of our leading players say that
he would like to see the Indian rules transferred
bodily to England.

After careful study of the rules of both countries
for some years, I think that where the two codes
differ the advantage is generally with the Indian one.
Indeed, as will be seen, most of the later changes in
our rules have brought the Indian and the Hurling-
ham rules more into accordance.


Application to hold a Tournament,

I. When it is proposed to hold a tournament permission
shall be obtained ft-om the Indian Polo Association, and a
prospectus submitted to them for approval.

Thus at the outset we see that in the organisation
and discipline of the game, India is in advance of
England. The Hurlingham Committee claim no
control at all over tournaments or the conditions
under which they are played. Yet it would be
greatly for the good of polo that they should exercise
some supervision over the tournaments. At present


each club is left entirely to its own devices in this
important matter. Yet the Hurlingham Committee,
as the central governing body, ought to control the
arrangements for the season, much as the Jockey
Club does the dates of race meetings and the con-
ditions of races. A power of this kind is but seldom
exercised, but it is a check on possible abuses that it
should exist ready to be used in time of need.


2. All tournaments played under the rules of the Indian
Polo Association shall be under the management of three
stewards, who shall be elected locally.

Right of Appeal to Stewards,

3. There shall be a right of appeal to the stewards upon
all questions which are not by these rules declared to be
subject to the final decision of some other authority, such as
umpires, etc., and the decision of the stewards in all such
appeals shall be final.

Questions to he Referred to Stewards,

4. Any question which may arise in the course of a
tournament, and which is not provided for by these rules,
shall be referred for decision to the stewards, who may, if
they think fit, refer the matter to the Committee of the
Indian Polo Association, whose decision shall be final.

Limit of Time and Number of Ponies,

5. The duration of play, and the number of ponies
allowed to be played by teams in a tournament, shall be
decided locally ; provided that the maximum duration of


play in any match does not exceed forty minutes, exclusive
of stoppages. Each team to consist of not more than four

Drawing of Ties,

6. In case of the number of competing teams for a
tournament not being a power of 2, as 4, 8, 16, etc., all
byes to be in the first round. For instance, 13 teams
competing, 3 are drawn as byes ; the remainder play off,
leaving 8 to play in the second round.

List of Ponies and Short Description of Tournaments,

7. The honorary secretary of a tournament will obtain
from the captain of each team, at the conclusion of
tournament, a correct list of the ponies played in the
tournament by his team. Printed forms will be supplied
by the Honorary Secretary, Indian Polo Association, for this
purpose. The lists, together with a short description of
the tournament for record in the Calendar^ will be forwarded
to the Honorary Secretary, Indian Polo Association, as soon
as possible after the conclusion of the tournament.

Ponies allowed to Play in a Tournament.

8. No pony without an Indian Polo Association certifi-
cate, or certificate of measurement fourteen hands one inch,
or under, from an authorised measurer of the Association, or
from an official measurer of the Calcutta or Western India
Turf Club, granted since ist April 1899, shall be allowed to
play in a tournament, except when a local measuring is

Registration Fee for Pony holding Racing Certificate.

9. The honorary secretary of a tournament will be
responsible that a fee of Rs.2 is collected for each pony with


a racing certificate, that has not been previously registered
as a polo pony, before such pony is allowed to play.

Application for a Measuring of Ponies.

10. A measuring of ponies for Indian Polo Association
certificates by a selected measurer will be arranged and
sanctioned, when possible, on any date, and at any place it
may be desired. Applications for such measurings should
be made to the Honorary Secretary, Indian Polo Association,
if possible one month before the measuring is required. In
the application the number of ponies for which the measuring
is requisitioned should be stated.

Local Measuring.

11. In the case of a tournament where an Indian Polo
Association measuring cannot be arranged, a local measurer
will be appointed whose measurements will be accepted for
that tournament only.

Disq ualifi cation .

12. Any team knowingly playing a pony in a tourna-
ment that has not been measured and passed in accordance
with these rules, shall be disqualified for that tournament.

First-Class Tournaments.

1 3. The following are classed as first-class tournaments : —
The Inter - Regimental Polo Tournament ; the British
Infantry Polo Tournament ; the Native Cavalry Polo
Tournament ; the Indian Polo Association Championship
Polo Tournament. And all tournaments in which there
are no restrictions as to composition of teams.

In England we classify the players, in India and


in America the tournaments. The latter is the
simpler method, and perhaps the better of the two,
so long as we have no handicaps.

Compulsory Membership.

14. All the players in any tournament played under the
Indian Polo Association rules must belong to some body
which is a member of the Association. The entrance fee
and annual subscription is so small that any few players
combining to form a team can join the Association as
a member, if they do not severally already belong to some
body which is a member.

This rule, which has a parallel in the American
rules, is, of course, impossible where there is no polo
association ; but the fact of clubs being registered at
Hurlingham, or affiliated to the County Polo Associa-
tion, has practically the same result, since clubs not
so registered or affiliated are excluded from many
tournaments. Yet we see plainly the advantage to the
game of a central association of a really representative
character. It is less timid than a committee, feeling
that it has the support of all players, and, above all,
the great danger that the government and regulation
of the game should fall into a few hands is avoided.
Both these dangers are very obvious to all thoughtful
men who look forward, and their existence even in
the future may make English polo players regret
that the course of events has, so far, prevented a
polo association.

Passing from the regulation of polo tournaments


to the rules of the game, I propose to notice those
rules which differ from ours. In considering the
Indian rules we must recollect in the first place that
polo in India is played often on a bare plain. The
plain is, of course, much harder than the well-watered
turf at Hurlingham or Ranelagh. The ball of bamboo
root used is at once somewhat larger and lighter than
ours, and travels over the hard, but not inelastic
surface of the ground at a much greater pace than
does the ball in England.

The ponies may not be faster in India than in
England, but the game is unquestionably quicker.
The ball there travels faster than the ponies, and is
generally in front of them. In England it is quite
as often behind the player. You have only to watch
an Indian polo match carefully to understand why
players in India, both native and English, are averse
from any alteration in the offside rule. Their game
is always fast and free enough for ponies and players,
and there is very little of the tendency to stickiness
that is the standing danger of English polo. The
Indian game is easier to play than the English, and
we often find that players of some repute in India fail
to show equally good form in England. Mr. John
Watson was good in both countries, and Major
Maclaren was at his best at Hurlingham ; but with
these and some other exceptions, the lumpy sodden
turf of English polo grounds defeats at first the
best efforts of the Indian player. This difference
is emphasised in the very first rule of the Indian


Size of the Ground.

1. The size of the ground shall be as nearly as possible
300 yards long and 200 yards broad.

The polo ground which we find too large in
England is barely spacious enough for the Indian
players. The absence of a guard along the sides
makes a difference, no doubt. Indian matches are
usually played more in the middle of the ground
than are English games. By common consent every
player tries to avoid hitting the ball over the line,
whereas most English matches are fought out along
the boards quite as much as in the middle of the

Boundary Lines,

2. The four corners shall be marked by flags. The
boundary lines joining the corner flags shall be spit-locked,
except between the goal-posts, and inside the subsidiary goal-
marks. Those marking the length of the ground shall be
called the side lines ; those marking the breadth of the
ground shall be called the back lines.

Marking of Side Lines.

3. Small flags shall be placed on each side line to mark
points, which shall be thirty yards from each back line,
fifty yards from each back line, and the centre of each side
line (centre flags).

Marking of Back Lines.

4. In the centre of each back line there shall be a goal
marked by goal-posts, which shall be at least ten feet high


and twenty-two feet apart.^ Eleven feet from the outside of
each goal-post, subsidiary goal-marks will be shown on the
ground by a small white line perpendicular to the back line.

Goal- Line and Subsidiary Goal- Lines,

5. The line between the goal-posts shall be called the
goal-line. The line between the subsidiary goal-mark and
the goal-post nearest to it shall be called the subsidiary goal-
line. For matches the goal-line and the subsidiary goal-line
shall be marked by a narrow line of whitewash.

Another difference we note is that their goal-posts
are two feet nearer to each other than ours, being
twenty-two, as against twenty-four feet apart. In
addition to this a space of eleven feet on each side
of the goal-posts is marked off for the subsidiary
goals. No amount of subsidiaries ever equal a goal,
unless at the close of time the scores are equal, when
the subsidiary has the same force as the goal, for it
decides the match. I well recollect the establishment
of subsidiaries. Several accidents had occurred at
the close of hard-fought matches, and it was thought
that some reckless play took place in those exciting
moments. The authorities pressed hard for rules
that would diminish risks. For this purpose the
subsidiary was invented to prevent ties. It may be
doubted if it was needed. To win by a subsidiary is
a conclusion to a match not satisfactory to the victors ;
to be beaten by a subsidiary is trying to a defeated
team. For while goals must nearly always be won
by play, a subsidiary may easily be a fluke. Indeed,

1 This is the only instance I know of, ancient or modern, in which the goal-
posts are less than twenty-four feet apart.


must always be so, since no one ever intended to
make one if he could achieve a goal. I do not
think in reality the last periods of a match are more
dangerous than others, and the subsidiary would not
be regretted if it ceased to exist. No one would
vote for its introduction into English polo.

Players and Umpires only allowed on the Ground.

6. Each team shall consist of not more than four players.
No person, other than players and umpires, shall come on
the ground while the ball is in play.

The Ball,

7. The ball shall be about ten and a half inches in
circumference and four ounces in weight.

Duration of Play.

8. Each match shall last for not more than forty minutes'
actual play, divided into periods of five minutes. Time must
be called, irrespective of the ball being in play, when the
game shall have lasted its specified maximum time.

The next point of difference is in Rule 8, the
Indian game being divided into eight periods of five
minutes each. There are several reasons for this
rule. In the first place there is the climate, next the
fact that the ponies used are less powerful than English
ponies, and are not seldom overweighted for a long-
continued struggle. Tired ponies often cross their legs
and come down, and a fall is a serious matter in India,
where the ground is hard. Five minutes is much
more interesting than ten to the spectators, and polo


is full of excitement in India to many people, natives
and Europeans. Moreover, the infantry and native
cavalry tournaments have now only six periods of
five minutes each, and players and spectators find it
enough. No one, I think, doubts that our English
matches are too long. The experiment, tried last
year at Ranelagh with such notable success, of having
all the preliminary ties of the Army Cup and the
whole of the Aldershot Cup ties played off in one
day in short games, shows that games will bear re-
duction in length with advantage. The finals of
the Championship, of the Inter- Regimental and
Ranelagh Open Cups and a few other first-class
tournaments are about the only matches that might
not be the better for reduction in length. There is
another consideration, and this is that short periods
tend to economy in ponies. Two good ponies could
undoubtedly play for three or four periods of five
minutes each. I can imagine, however, that if the
ball did not, as sometimes it does not, go out for
seven or eight minutes on a guarded ground, there
would be a certain inconvenience in having, say, but
two minutes or less of play in the next period. In
such a case the Indian plan of deducting the overtime
in aggregate from the last period, or the last but one
would probably meet the case. This the Indian rule
provides for as follows : —


9. A period will end the first time the ball goes out
after five minutes' actual play, except that the penalty


mentioned in Rule 17 (/), or the penalty for any foul,
must be exacted in the same period in which the breach
of rules occurred. Any excess of time over five minutes
in each period will be deducted from the last period, and, if
the aggregate of such overtime exceeds five or ten minutes,
from the last period but one, or the last period but two, as
may be found necessary.

The plan here adopted is to deduct all the over-
time* in an aggregate at the close of the match, and
is a simpler method than the Hurlingham rule of
taking off the time from the next period. It has
the further advantage of making all the periods of
actual play fairly equal in length. Where, however,
the ground has no boards, I should think that the
ball would seldom be so long without going out
as to make the total deductions at the end to
extend to more than, say, one period.


10. There shall be an interval of not more than three
minutes between each period, and of one minute after each
goal. At the conclusion of each interval, and, otherwise,
whenever the ball goes out of play, the game must be at once
restarted as laid down in Rule 17.

The allowance of time after each period is three
minutes, and one minute after each goal, amounting
to nearly half an hour to forty minutes' play. This
seems unnecessarily long. In England the total
pauses would not average more than twenty minutes
to an hour's actual play — a better proportion.


A Match^ how decided,

11. A match is won by the team that scores the greatest
number of goals, or, in the event of a tie, by the team that
scores the greatest number of subsidiary goals. No number
of subsidiary goals will ever equal a true goal. If at the
expiration of time each team has scored the same number of
goals and subsidiary goals, the goals shall be widened up to
the subsidiary goal-marks, and fresh subsidiary goal-marks
drawn at the usual distance outside them. The game shall
then be restarted from the centre of the ground (vide Rule
17 (^), and play shall be continued for five minutes. If at
the expiration of this additional five minutes the game is no
longer a tie, time shall be called, and the match shall end.
But if the game is still a tie, time shall not be called until the
ball goes out of play. The game shall then be continued
with the usual periods and intervals, until one side scores,
when it shall end, or, otherwise, until the play is no longer
possible. In the latter case the local tournament committee
will settle whether the match is to be played over again,
or the most equitable way in which a decision shall be
arrived at.

This rule follows the Indian principle of avoiding
close struggles, and provides for the widening of the
goal-posts to forty-four feet in case of a tie. This
seems an almost absurd width, and must deprive
Indian polo matches of many exciting finishes. I
think most players in England would be sorry to see
the introduction of this rule.

Goal^ how obtained,

12. A goal is obtained if the ball cross over the back line
between the goal-posts, or, if higher than the goal-posts.


between the goal-posts produced perpendicularly, or, if one
or both goal-posts have been displaced, between the points
where the goal-posts should stand.

This rule has the same effect as Hurlingham
Rule 17, but the latter would be better if the last
clause of the Indian rule was added.

Subsidiary Goal^ how obtained.

13. A subsidiary goal is obtained in the same way as a
goal, except that to score a subsidiary goal the ball must

Online LibraryT. F. (Thomas Francis) DalePolo past and present → online text (page 24 of 33)