The arena is basking under the pleasant April sun. The audience sits beneath the shade of white canopies on the periphery of the vast arena as six players battle it out on the field with their mallets. It is the second chukker of the first game in this national polo tournament in Karamadiya village in Bhavnagar. And Carysil Cowboys player number one – a position allotted to the most novice player – Chirag Parekh is just getting warmed up. The goal posts are in sight, the ball is within his reach but he’s cornered by two defenders from the opposing team. It seems a little too dicey to strike now. Just as he lifts his mallet for a back swing, there goes the air horn from the umpire announcing the end of the second chukker.
“Polo is all about taking risks, this game has taught me to channel all my extra energy into taking calculated risks,” proclaims the chairman and managing director of Acrysil group. As a young boy, Parekh would wake up at five every morning to watch the mounted police of Bhavnagar during their horseback training on the grounds that could be seen from the backyard. Several years later a friend invited him over to a polo match among the royals of Jodhpur. That left the budding industrialist very fascinated with the sport and on his return back home he bought a few thoroughbreds and donated them to the mounted police force and after which he sent a few youngsters to Jaipur to be trained and thus formed the Bhavnagar Polo Club in 2000 which is when he mounted a horse for the first time. “Someone once joked about how this sport is not meant for a Gujarati, so I took it up as a challenge,” he says. He began playing polo in 2005 and then once he gained the confidence to compete in a tournament he started his own team called Carysil Cowboys in 2010, which is the year the sleepy city of Bhavnagar hosted its first national polo tournament.
And the 46-year-old businessman hasn’t looked back since. The April 2016 tournament was the second event organized at such a grand scale wherein he roped in the English stalwart with a six handicap rank, George Meyrick, as part of his team. While Parekh often travels twice a month to nearby Jaipur and Jodhpur and sometimes even to Mumbai and Delhi for a refreshing game of polo, he’s always working on his swing movements at his ranch back home. Situated some 25 km from his home in Bhavnagar, Parekh owns a 50-acre ranch that houses his prized polo ponies. “There was a time when polo had taken over my personal and professional life and I would head there every other day. Now, I try to make it twice a week in the evening after work,” he says. Parekh has also inspired his 13-year-old daughter to take up horseback riding.
The position one player is currently accredited with a -1 rank by the Indian Polo Association. While he is training hard to improve his rank, he lists the other benefits of indulging in this equestrian sport. “Polo has taught me to be fitter. It trains your mind to focus on a goal and learn to manage the stress to improve your performance.” The man, who is at the helm of a quartz and stainless steel kitchen sink company, is targeting the Rs.1,000-crore mark for his business in the next six years. As for his hobby, “ I have been approached by several polo connoisseurs to launch a national polo league on the lines of other popular sporting events like Indian Premier League and the Pro Kabaddi League. So, let’s see what can be done,” he confides.