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" A Series on the stalwarts of Polo in India "  by  Shivina Kumari

SAMIR SUHAG +5
 

Samir grew up watching his father play polo never wanting to try it. Who would have thought that this soft spoken boy, who was frightened of horses, would someday be India's only 6 goal polo player of recent times.

During the spring of 1989, 17 year old Samir started riding seriously, practicing his stick and ball coached by his father, then Brig Bheem Suhaag and Col Sirohi of the ASC. He played his first game on the Presidents Bodyguard Polo Ground in the summer that year and played his first polo tournament later that fall. He played with the 61 Cavalry team winning the 10 goal tournament in Delhi. He went from a -2 to a +1 player during the span of seven months.

Samir, then played for the Kashmir team, having a very successful season, winning the President's Cup in 1991, with Yuvraj Vikramaditya, Adhiraj Singh and Carlos Urrea. Reflecting on his most memorable win, it was during the same season in Delhi. Arriving at the polo ground with his father, Samir looked wistfully at the IPA trophy shimmering in the sun in front of the grandstand and said to his father, "We have to win this someday". Playing with his father (+4), Col. Pickles Sodhi (+5) and Col. Sirohi (+4), they took home the IPA cup that day, setting a record of some sorts with a father son combo winning a tournament together after years.

Indecision about joining the army and where to go from there, was put at rest as he entered the professional polo world, which was relatively new in India at the time. In 1994, Navin Jindal made him an offer to play and school his horses full time.  He played with the Jindal team, as a key player, winning tournaments all over the country.

During the span of his polo career, he has been part of 3 Indian World Cup teams. The first one in 1991 in Malaysia, then in 1995 where they reached the finals in St. Moritz, when India ranked 5th and the last one in 1998 in Australia. In the 1995 World Cup preliminaries played in Zimbabwe, the Indian team, who were the underdogs, played against the strong local team.  The  Indian team, which consisted of Col. Pinka Virk, Dhruvpal Godara, Manupal Godara and Samir, went out to surprise everyone with a victory, putting India on the international map again for the first time in years. Samir remembers during that match that it was a do or die feeling playing for the country, to win no matter what the odds were. 

Samir is known for his long hitting, his ability to get to the ball quickly and carry it with accuracy and speed. In 2000 his handicap was put up to +6 goals, but it was a year of many injuries for this player. The Bombay season started with a serious head injury for Samir, six months later when he was playing at Ramgarh he fractured his collarbone.

The injuries have taken a toll on this young player as he talks about life as a professional player, today he feels if he gets off the ground in one piece, giving it his best shot, he is happy. Life as a polo player is what he would choose all over again minus the injuries and the loss of loved
horses.

What is stopping this young player who is still in the prime of his career from achieving and even higher handicap? He feels it is the lack of opportunity to play competitive polo abroad, he feels unless one has more exposure it is very easy for an Indian player to stagnate. The Indian polo season is only for about 9 months, to play through the summer, have more league tournaments and good coaching is what he feels would help our players reach greater heights. Samir looks back on learning a lot of his polo from not only his father, but from Maharaj Prem Singh who was one of our greatest coaches and also from Maharaj Prem's nephew, Col. Bhawani Singh.