India B comprising players from Manipur thrashed England 8-3 in the opening match of the 11th Manipur Polo International, 2017 with L Atangba firing in four goals. P Ojit scored two goals while T Pradeepkumar and Bimol Singh contributed one each to the final tally for Manipur.
The beginning of the 1st chukker gave no indication of the rout that was to follow, for the England team held off the marauding Manipuri player till the 5.54th minute. That was the time when T Pradeepkumar scored opening the floodgate to the English goal. L Atangba followed it up with another goal in the 6.21st minute of the same chukker.
The 2nd chukker was totally dominated by the local lads who blasted in four goals. The first one came from Atangba in the 1.50th minute of this chukker which was followed by Ojit in the 2.30th minute. Atangba scored two more goals in the 4.16th and 4.33th minute. England team once again failed to score any goal in this chukker. The score line showed 6-0 going into the 3rd chukker.
The 3rd chukkar saw the English side staging some sort of a fight back, they had some cracks on the goal but unluckily for them, failed to find the target. All the same, they managed to hold the India B team for larger part of this chukker but could not stop Ojit and Bimol from scoring in the 5.40th and 6.12th minute respectively, increasing the tally to 8-0.
The last chukker belonged to England, they not only managed to open their account but scored three goals. The India B team also had their chances but was not able to convert those into goals. The hero of the English resurgence was Phil Sellers who scored all the three goals. The goals coming in the .35th , 1.12th and 5.51st minute.
The India A team made two changes in the 4th chukker with Jogendra Meitei and Th Jacob coming in place of Atangba and Pradeepkumar.
L Atangba(1), P Ojit(20, T Pradeepkumar(30) captain, S Bimol(4), Jogendra Meitei(6) and Th Jacob(5) represented India B while for England George Shelton(1) captain, Ben Eeley(4), Phil Seller(2) and Robin Ormerod (3) took the field.
The umpires of the match were Martin Scortichini from Argentina and Nick Johnson of USA.
Thursday, November 23 will see an exhibition match between Morocco and Argentina followed by the tournament match between USA and India A.
The English team is once again led by George Shelton as in the last edition of this tournament. He is delighted to be back in Imphal as he puts it, “it’s a unique place and I enjoy the style of polo”. George feels, he and Phil Sellers having played here last year will give the English team a distinct advantage. But at the same time, he stressed the need to work with the horses and sort out which horse will suit which player the best.
George Shelton, 28 years of age is from Oxford, England. Besides playing polo, Shelton is at present pursuing his PhD degree from Plymouth University and holds an M.Sc. degree in Innovation Creativity and Leadership from City University, London.
George Shelton started riding a horse when he was barely 7 years old and has been playing polo since the age of 14 after watching a friend play. “I had one lesson and was hooked”, recounted the English captain. Incidentally, George’s father and brother are also polo players. The speed, the difficulty and the fun was what attracted George to polo, “it’s a game where you are always learning”.
Phil Seller like his captain was also here last year, feels extremely good to be back again and is looking forward to a great tournament. The team, according to Phil, is better prepared than last year and hopes to make it to the final this time. Among the other teams, Phil believes the India B team of local players and the Argentine team will be the team to beat.
Phil Seller, 26 years of age, is a professional polo player from Hentfort, United Kingdom and is presently living in Cambridge. He is a two goal player and has represented England on different occasions including the two trips here. He is presently associated with Guards Polo club. Phil started playing polo from the early age of 12 years.
The love of outdoor life was what attracted Phil to polo. He started playing with some Argentines who appeared to him like cowboys on horses.
The third member of the team is Robin Ormerod who at 20 years is one of the youngest players to play in the Manipur Polo International tournament. For Robin, playing polo came natural to him as he grew up in an environment surrounded by horses and polo as his parents run a polo club, the ‘Druids Lodge Polo club’. Incidentally, his father Giles Ormerod is a handicap 3 player while his elder brothers Eden and Maurice have handicaps of 4 and 2 respectively. Robin himself is a handicap 1 player.
For Robin, the most compelling aspect about polo is the connection between man and horse and the skill of the players to make good decision under pressure. He feels horse helps man and vice versa. He cited how man and horse together make the greatest team as a predator, how horses are used in war, sports and agriculture.
On the Manipur pony, Robin found them much smaller than he had imagined but did not find much difficulty in riding them. On the contrary, he feels it works to his advantage as he, standing at 6.1 inches, has a longer reach. Of the teams, he feels Argentina and the USA are good but not unbeatable. The England player, according to him, stands a good chance as they are working as a team. The Key to winning, according to Robin, is playing for the horse and ability to communicate effectively within the team.
Ben Eely 36 years of age, the fourth member of the English team, is a professional polo player. Other than playing polo, Ben buys race horses and trains them for polo as also young horses. He started playing polo at around 13 years of age and presently plays for Kirtlington Polo club which is near Oxford. His father was also a polo player but gave up the sports few decades back.
What attracted Ben to polo was his love for horses and the fact that it is the fastest game played with a ball. He feels each and every horse is different and one has to adapt oneself to them. Some horses are very fast while some horses can come to an abrupt stop easily.
Ben found the experience in Manipur very nice and riding the Manipuri pony great fun. One of the most compelling reasons besides the thrill of playing competitive polo for Ben was the chance to play in the oldest living polo field in the world. And he hopes to make the best of the opportunity and win the tournament for his team.