The sport of Bicycle Polo
The rise of Bicycle Polo in India during the eighties necessitated the creation of a regulatory authority. That came with the establishment of the Cycle Polo Association of India in 1966 it has its main office in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Traditionally, the sport of polo has been horse-mounted. A team sport is played between two opposing teams. Once astride the horse, all the members of each of the playing teams are equipped with a long-handled wooden mallet. The aim is for the two teams to outdo each other by hitting a small hard ball through the opposing team’s goal. But adding spice to the sport are eclectic, electrifying new variants of polo that have recently emerged. One of them is called Bicycle Polo.
Bicycle polo is similar to horse-mounted polo, except that bicycles replace horses in this instance. Though initially considered a queer, quirky variant, it has steadily witnessed its popularity rise in the first two decades of this century. Interestingly, Bicycle polo has Gaelic roots. Established by erstwhile cycling champion Richard J. Mecredy in County Wicklow, Ireland, it traces its timeline to the late nineteenth century. Within a few decades, Bicycle polo had spread to other European countries, Great Britain and France. By the turn of the century, Bicycle Polo had made its international debut, with a thrilling match played between Ireland and England. That stellar popularity culminated with bicycle polo’s entry into the 1908 London Olympics with Ireland against Germany. But Ireland and Great remained centres of bicycle polo during the first half of the twentieth century. In due course, France became a significant centre of bicycle polo tournaments. The sport remained in France as such to this day. However, this French phenomenon wasn’t reflected in other countries. Unfortunately for the sport, it began to perish in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The 1980s saw the rise of two new powers in cycle polo: India and the United States. Today, the sport has spread to other continents, with several countries therein, including Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA, joining in. Cycle polo was officially recognized by the Union Cycliste Internationale in 2001.
Variant Of Bicycle Polo
There are two variants of the sport: Hardcourt and Grass Court bike polo. The hardcourt variant has witnessed an exponential increase in interest in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Within grass courts, there are two variants: the four-player game and the five-player game.
In the four-player variant, bicycle polo is played within the confines of a rectangular-shaped grass field, with dimensions of 150m by 100 m. These dimensions can vary between 120m to 150m for length and 80m to 100m for breadth. The ball used herein is 64 mm in diameter, and the mallet is of maximum length one metre. As for the team, there are six members representing each side, with two of them substitutes. International matches, under the four-player method, are played for a duration of 30 minutes, divided into periods of 7.5 minutes, known as chukkars. Extra time can be used to determine the winner in the event of the scores being tied at normal time.
In the five-player game–a largely European concept–bicycle polo is played in a rectangular-shaped grass field of dimensions 100m by 60m. These dimensions can vary between 80m to 110m in length and 40m to 70m in breadth. The ball, in this instance, is between 32 cm to 38 cm in circumference when inflated, and the mallet is of maximum length 1 metre. As for the team, there are eight members representing each side, with three of them substitutes. Matches are played for a duration of 60 minutes divided into 4 periods of 15 minutes each. Extra time can be used to determine the winner in the event that the scores are tied at normal time.
Otherwise known as Hardcourt Bicycle Polo, the variant has witnessed a steady rise in popularity. Played on a court with a paved surface of asphalt, two teams of three each compete against each other. The courts are usually the size of a standard tennis court, with dimensions being 23.77m in length and 8.23m in breadth. A comparatively faster-paced variant with all members on the court at all times. ‘A street hockey ball is used, and matches are played until one team scores five points or time has expired, without playing chukkars. During tournament play, a time limit, such as 10 minutes, may be used to maximise the number of tournament rounds possible during the day.’
Bicycle Polo In India
The rise of Bicycle Polo in India during the eighties necessitated the creation of a regulatory authority. That came with the establishment of the Cycle Polo Association of India in 1966 it has its main office in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The association is recognised by the Government of India's Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. It also has an affiliation with the Indian Olympic Association and the International Bicycle Polo Association. The operation of the association is handled by a duly elected Executive Committee for a term of four years. The country’s armed forces are also deeply involved in promoting the sport. For instance, In the 2016–17 season, the men's nationals were held in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, from 13 to 16 January 2017. Indian Air Force was the champion, and the Indian Army was the runners-up. In 2017, the CC&FC All India Invitation Cycle Polo Cup had seven teams in the men's section and five in the women's section. Territorial Army was the eventual champion in the men's section. They defeated Indian Air Force 14:6 in the final. In 2018, in the men's section, the defending champions, the Territorial Army, successfully defended their title by defeating Bengal 12:10 in the final.