A delightful déjà vu, from last year, but within the context of the ongoing pandemic, the Rajnigandha Achievers (the polo team that’s part of the DS Group), beat its rival Achievers ONN on Delhi’s Jaipur Polo Ground last week, to win the 10-goal Baroda Cup for the fourth year in a row, with Argentine five-goaler Daniel Otamendi scoring a total of six runs in the match. “It’s not that easy to win once and come back again, to win again,” says Daniel, who's won The Baroda Cup twice in a row. “The most amazing thing is that we won The Baroda Cup – one of the most prestigious polo tournaments in India – against Achievers ONN.”Daniel on the field
Daniel, who has been in India for the last 10 weeks, after playing this summer in England, despite the pandemic, has now headed back to Jaipur, and then will continue on to Jodhpur to finish this year’s polo season. This is his second year playing with the Rajnigandha Achievers polo team (his other teammates include Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, Kuldeep Singh Rathore, and Allan Shaun Michael. “It’s been difficult to play during the pandemic, no doubt, as it’s affected the sport,” says Daniel. “And the polo association has changed a few rules. I am just happy to be playing. And it’s not just us players – everyone working behind the scenes for the polo, it’s been challenging for the horse groomers, the trainers – it’s good that we have carried on the way we have. The Rajnigandha team is huge, and it helps to have a team with all its horses, groomers, and trainers, who are all doing their best for the sport. I am really proud to be a part of this team!”Daniel near the horses between play
As an Argentine polo player, Daniel, who’s from the province of Santa Fe, says he’s lucky to be able to play polo through the year, as the weather conditions back home are conducive to this. Having learnt to ride at the age of six, Daniel picked up the polo mallet at 20, and hasn’t looked back since, playing all over the world, from UK to Australia, where he represented his country at the national level (his team reached the finals of the Royal Windsor Cup in Britain). “Our gaucho background really helps us in Argentina,” says Daniel. “We’re used to do everything on horseback. To play polo, you need to be good rider, first and foremost. And for me or any Argentine, we grow up riding horses.”
Daniel says that the polo ponies he’s played tournaments during his stint in India have been superlative. “For us, the horse is everything,” he says. “And Rajnigandha has really good horses in good numbers. This is important when you are competing every week, as we are, it’s not easy to have consistency of play without good horses.” Daniel keeps his horses in the UK (where he spends most of his time) as well as Argentina, and has travelled with them to Australia and Thailand for matches.Daniel in action on the field
And when speaking to a national-level Argentine player, begs the inevitable question: what makes Argentina the home of the world’s best polo players? “We’re just lucky to play all year round, as we have so much land, and people just love to breed horses there, you know?” says Daniel. “Plus, we’ve been doing this for a very long time…” Asked about his ‘dream team’, Daniel says without missing a beat: “I would love to have Adolfo Cambioso (Argentine 10-goaler, current world number one) and Facundo Pieres (Argentine 10-goaler) – those two for me are the greatest players in the world. I would also add Pablo Mac Donough (Argentine 10-goaler).”
In India, Daniel says his toughest competitor on the field has been Arjuna Awardee and six-goaler Simran Singh Shergill, who plays for Jindal Panther. “He’s an amazing player, I play a lot against him,” says Daniel. “You have to look out for him – he’s very competitive!”Daniel Otamendi of the Rajnigandha Achievers on the polo field
The Indian Open polo tournament, where Daniel played for Rajnigandha Achievers – and won – two weeks before, was one of his best matches in India. Currently, he says he’s not able to see much of the country as he usually goes from match to the stables, and is not stepping out much due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this keeps the focus on his game. “A few rules have changed – for the throw-ins for example, where you have contact with other players,” says Daniel. “But it’s an open-air sport. There are only eight players and two umpires on the field!” And next year begins with the polo season in Mumbai, followed by Jaipur again, then a return to Delhi, and a summer in England. “Hopefully, by the end of next year, I will be back in India!” says Daniel. We hope so too, to a normalized polo season, and a world back to normal.
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