Every picture has a story and a group photo of the polo teams of the Pakistan Army and Jaipur, taken in 1955, deserves some examination in detail.
As part of the initiative by both countries to revive polo in our Subcontinent, the Indian Army Polo Team was invited to play in Lahore in 1954 and the next year the Indians reciprocated. The Pakistan Army Polo Team played at Delhi against the Indian Army Polo Team – where Jawaharlal Nehru was the chief guest. When the Indians were losing, he enquired from the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri aka ‘Muchu’:
“What’s wrong with the Indian Army?”
Muchu cleverly deflected the question to Gen Rajendrasinhji Jadeja and proposed, “Let’s ask the Army Chief.” The team then went on to Jaipur to play some friendly matches on the invitation of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II – where a memorable photo was taken of the Pakistan Army Polo Team and their counterparts from Jaipur’s team.
Sitting on the ground from the left is Lt Col Sikander (Sikku) Ali Baig, the younger brother of Hesky Baig. Their father was Nawab Hamid Yar Jung, Minister-in-Waiting to the Nizam of Hyderabad and they were the grandsons of Sir Afsarul Mulk, C-in-C of the Hyderabad Army. Sikku was a well-known cavalry officer. He was the recipient of a gold medal from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun and during the Second World War he saw active service in the Middle East with the 16th Light Cavalry. ‘Horsey’ to the core like his brother, he had a four-goal handicap. The girl next to him cannot be identified but next to her is Hari Singh, the son of the great polo player Hanut Singh. Next is Ripo, the sister of the Nawab of Pataudi. She married Farid Riaz, the son of G. Moeenuddin but unfortunately died at an early age. The little boy next to her is Prince Jagat Singh, the son of the Maharaja of Jaipur from Ayesha, his third wife. Next is Major Kishan Singh from Jodhpur who was serving in the 61st Cavalry. Apart from the Bodyguards, the 61st Cavalry is the only horse mounted cavalry regiment in the Indian Army and has a rich polo-playing tradition. Kishan had a four-goal handicap and was a member of the Indian Polo Team that won the world cup at Deauville, France in 1957. In a professional career spread over 28 years, he won more than 400 trophies. The last player on the right is Captain Nawabzada Azmat Khan, one of the seven sons of Qutbuddin Khan, the last Nawab of Tank. The family had two polo grounds in Tank and the Nawab led his sons as the Tank Hawks in various tournaments. Nawabzada Azmat was commissioned in the 11th Cavalry PAVO and though at the time of this tour, he had a handicap of only two goals, he played brilliantly at the position of Number One. He had a great future in polo but unfortunately broke his arm two years later. His son, Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, was a recipient of the sword of honour and recognised for his outstanding performance as a field commander against the insurgents in Pakistan’s erstwhile FATA region.
Sitting first on the left is Silvat, wife of Maj Gen Nawabzada Sher Ali Pataudi and daughter of G. Moeenuddin – an eminent civil servant from the Indian Civil Service cadre. She is the mother of Maj Gen Asfandyar Ali Pataudi, who like his father is an accomplished polo player. Next to her is the host Sawai Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur (also known as ‘SMS’). The previous Maharaja of Jaipur, Madho Singh II had numerous children (no less than 65) by various concubines, but the highly superstitious Maharaja was warned by a sage against having legitimate heirs and thus took great care not to impregnate his five wives. In 1921, Madho Singh II adopted Mor Mukut to be his son and heir. The boy was given the name “Man Singh” upon his adoption. He was a very enthusiastic polo player with an astonishing nine-goal handicap and died in 1970 after an accident while playing polo in England. Next to the Maharaja is Sajida Sultan, who was the titular Begum of Bhopal from 1960 until 1971 – when India abolished royal entitlements. She was the mother of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi (the great cricketer also known as Tiger Pataudi) and her daughter-in-law was Begum Ayesha Sultana (better known as Sharmila Tagore). On her other side is Raja Ghazanfar Ali, who was Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India. He played an important role in the formation of the nation and after Independence became a leading diplomat. Over a span of nine years he was ambassador in Iran, Turkey, India and Italy. Seated in the center is unmistakably the glamorous Maharani Gayatra Devi of Jaipur (known to her friends and the world as Ayesha). She was the daughter of the ruler of Cooch Bihar, fell in love with the 21-year-old Maharaja of Jaipur when she was only 12 and married him at the age of 20 years. Next to her is Lieutenant General Muhammad Yousaf Khan (known to his friends as Joe), who was captain of the Pakistan team. He was commissioned from Sandhurst in 1929 and joined the 7th Light Cavalry. At Independence he was one of the senior officers in the Pakistan Army with an army number of 15. After retirement he served as High Commissioner in the UK and Australia, and as Ambassador in Afghanistan. His sons Tariq and Asif Afridi played alongside him.
When the Indians were losing the game of polo in Delhi, Nehru enquired from the Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen J. N. Chaudhuri aka ‘Muchu’: “What’s wrong with the Indian Army?”
Next to General Joe is Salima the wife of ‘Hesky’ Baig, who was royalty in her own right. Her maiden name was Nawabzadi Salima Begum Sahiba and she was the daughter of Meherban Sardar Mir Hafiz-ud-din Ahmad Khan, the Nawab of Surat. To her right is Jagaddipendra Narayan, the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar, also known as ‘Bhaiya’ – as he was called by his sister Ayesha of Jaipur. He was commissioned into the 7th Light Cavalry and fought with the regiment in Burma during the Second World War. And finally on the right is Mary, the wife of Brig el Effendi and mother of two famous polo players, Podger and Viky. In Pakistani polo they had several successful seasons as Mary’s Lambs, led by their father and well supported by Azmat Khan and Shahid Ali. They subsequently migrated to the United States where they played professional polo and Pakistan’s national flag was flown whenever they played. After the death of her husband, Mary went back to Perth in her native Australia.
Second from the left in the back row is Col Muhammad Ali Noon who was the brother of Sir Feroze Khan Noon and next to him is Brig Gulsher Khan Noon. Both were of the same age, born in 1897; both were commissioned on the same date (17 July 1920) from the Temporary School for Indian Cadets (TSIC) Daly College, Indore; and both were outstanding polo players having a handicap of seven and six respectively. Gulsher joined the Army Remount Department and Muhammad Ali served in both the 7th and 16th Light Cavalry. Standing next to them is another leading Indian player. Next is one of the most famous of Indian and international players, Brigadier Rao Raja Hanut Singh – possibly the greatest polo personality of South Asia. He had a handicap of nine goals for twenty years from 1919-39 and from 1931-39 he captained the Jaipur Team. During this period it remained almost unbeatable in India – and in England in 1933 where they referred to him as the god of polo. His father was Lieutenant-General Maharaja Sri Pratap Singh of Idar, who was a great warrior and even at the age of 70 commanded his Jodhpur Lancers in France and Palestine during the First World War. Rao Hanut Singh served as his father’s aide in both these theatres.
Standing behind Ayesha is Maj Gen Nawabzada Sher Ali Pataudi (uncle of Tiger Pataudi) who was commissioned from Sandhurst in 1933. He also joined the 7th Light Cavalry but later commanded 1/1st Punjab, the battalion of Field Marshal Auchinleck in Burma. During the 1947-48 Kashmir War he commanded the 14th (Parachute) Brigade and was awarded the Hilal-e-Jurat, Pakistan’s second highest gallantry award. He was a four-goal player and with Gen Yousaf contributed greatly to reviving polo in Pakistan in its first decade.
The unmistakable figure next to Sher Ali is Brigadier Sardar H.M. el-Effendi. He was of Afghan ancestry, the grandson of Sardar Ayub Khan, who defeated the British at the Battle of Maiwand in 1880, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. An outstanding cadet, he was the recipient of the sword of honour from IMA. He was captured in North Africa (along with Sahibzada Yaqub and others) when his regiment the 11th Cavalry PAVO was overrun by the German Afrika Korps. However, he escaped, rejoined his regiment and fought in the Burma Campaign where he was mentioned in the Dispatches. His ferocious temper ever since he was a cadet was notorious both on and off the polo ground. However, his bark was worse than his bite. In fact, his kindness and generosity to all were in the best traditions of the Afghan. For over 20 years he organized Pakistan polo with leading teams invited to play from abroad. As commandant of the Gilgit Scouts in the early 1950s he also reinvigorated the game at one of its original homes. His handicap was rated at four goals and his favourite pony was named Maiwand after the famous battle.
The unmistakable figure next to Sher Ali is Brigadier Sardar H.M. el-Effendi. He was of Afghan ancestry, the grandson of Sardar Ayub Khan, who defeated the British at the Battle of Maiwand in 1880, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War
Brig Mirza Masood Ali (Hesky) Baig, standing next, was truly *the* international luminary in polo circuits at that time and put Pakistan on the world’s polo map. Rated at five goals he was the most mercurial forward of his time. Before the era of the Argentinians in England, he was a much sought personality at Windsor and Cowdray, and was at ease with commoners and royalty. He was an outstanding cadet, not only awarded the sword of honour like el Effendi, but the first and only Muslim cadet to concurrently win three additional awards: the gold medal for academics, the Baluch mounted warfare prize and the silver spurs. He was commissioned to the 7th Light Cavalry and fought with the regiment during Gen Slim’s counter-offensive against the Japanese. He started playing in Hyderabad well before he joined the Army and continued into his 70s. The stories of his glorious wins are still exchanged by polo players and his escapades in the Pakistan Army are no less famous. General Gul Hassan recounts that when Hesky was commanding Probyn’s Horse in Lahore, the members of the Punjab Club, still a citadel of the British, hosted for its officers. Led by their CO, the officers arrived at the club in their mess kits, riding two Stuart tanks and the hosts were thrilled to see the officers arrive – literally – in force!
Next to Hesky is Capt Hamid Ali Noon (19th Lancers) who had a four-goal handicap. He is flanked by Maj Muhammad Umar Khan who was commanding the Governor General Bodyguard. He subsequently commanded the Guides. Umar was a third generation cavalry officer who obtained an Emergency Commissioned and joined Scinde Horse, the regiment of his father (Risaldar Major Akhtar Munir) and his grandfather. He had a four-goal handicap and his tragic death in 1963 in a road accident was mourned by the fraternity of polo and the entire Pakistan Armoured Corps. His two sons Zahid and Mujahid acquired not only their father’s passion for polo – in fact, like their father, they both commanded the Bodyguards as well as the Guides Cavalry.
Amongst all those wonderful and interesting personalities in this picture, only Begum Nawabzada Sher Ali and Mary el Effendi are still alive.
The author would like to thank Tariq Khan Afridi (son of Lt Gen Yousaf) and Col Zahid Umar (son of Col Umar) for helping in identifying personalities in this picture and providing some useful insight. He is also grateful to Doc Kazi for permitting him to use this picture from his amazing collection on Flickr