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DUMB QUESTIONS

In polite circles this might also be know as the FAQ or Frequently-Asked Questions section. There is also a Glossary at the end of this section. For a bit of a giggle, check out the 'Team Information' section where the really dumb questions asked by the team are documented.
 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS


This sport and your team has to be a joke ?

Well actually in a non-serious sort of way, we are a serious team and actually play on elephants as pictured in the 'Photos' section.

Have any of you played horse polo before ?
No.

What experience do you need with elephants ?
None. Some level of physical fitness and an eye for ball sports does help though.

Could you suggest some good chat-up lines to be used in bars ?
Uh ... well ... yes ... but this is supposed to be about elephant polo ?

Do the elephants smell ? (from CH in Austin, Texas)
Surprisingly, they don't. As for the players, well that's another story !

How many on a team ?
For the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal, there are four team members on the field at any one time. A team is permitted a maximum of eight players for any tournament and can rotate players between chukkas. In other words, there are nine elephants (two teams and the umpire's elephant) on the field for a given game. The newer tournaments in Thailand and Sri Lanka have, previously, played with only three players (and elephants) per side, and hence a maximum team size of six players.

Do the players drive the elephants ?
No. It takes year's of training to become a mahout (elephant driver). Players communicate with the mahout who in turn steers the elephant.

Why are there three people per elephant in the photos ? (from TP in Dubai, UAE)
The photos on this site (and the official WEPA and King's Cup sites) will show the following numbers of people on elephants:

  • Zero - This means the elephant is on the run making a break for freedom (just kidding, it's mahout wouldn't be far)

  • One - The mahouts in a Nepal have a game called the All-Nepal Challenge. They play and steer the elephants by themselves. They are damn good. All of them

  • Two - The tournaments are played with a mahout and a player sitting behind him

  • Three or more - The referee elephant (in Nepal & Thailand) will carry a mahout, the referee (duh !) and sometimes a camera crew, spectators, thrill-seekers ... Some teams arrange shots with four or more of the team on an elephant. They are considered media-hungry show-offs. Our team too consists of media-hungry show-offs but we weren't organised enough in our debut season to arrange any such shots


How do you practice ? (if we had a dollar for every time this has been asked ...)
There is a practice day on the Sunday before the Nepal tournament and four practice days before the Thai Tournament. Apart from that it probably comes as no surprise that we find it difficult to practice. Being the ever versatile team, we do however regularly meet in bars around Asia to talk about how we should perhaps buy a team ladder. (If only that was a joke ...)
 
Do you hire local elephants for the tournaments ? If Yes, wouldn't that mean a home town advantage as they would save the best elephants for themselves ? (from TP in Dubai, UAE)
The tournament organisers hire (or in some cases own) the elephants. The elephants are divided into roughly equal groups of four (Nepal) and three (Thailand and Sri Lanka) based on size and speed. They remain in these groups for the tournament. Some of the photos show elephants with A, B, C, or D on their foreheads (which is chalk and washes off). The A and B elephants will play one entire game against each other. The teams swap A elephants for B elephants after the first chukka (ie half-time), and vice-versa. The A and B elephants then rest during the next game and the C and D elephants are used.

Do the male and female players play in different competitions ?
No. There are in fact all-female, all-male and mixed teams. All play in the same tournaments. The rules permit women to play with two hands. Men are only permitted to play with their right hands. Debate can often be heard ad nauseam between the sexes as to whether this is fair or not.

Are the elephants noisy ?
They can be. They sometimes trumpet when cold, hungry or scared. For example the elephants will generally trumpet when the Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu arrives (and lands right next to the playing field). This is because they are scared. Players too are often cold, hungry and scared onboard Yeti Airlines flights.

But isn't it cruel ? Do you hurt the elephants ? Who gives you the right to play with wild creatures ? [we've received many such questions around the same, ill-informed theme ...]

THE SHORT ANSWER:
No. It is not cruel and the 'seasoned' elephants genuinely seem to enjoy, and in some cases understand the game.

THE LONG-WINDED ANSWER:
Some have taken umbrage with these majestic creatures being used for silly human purposes. If you have a philosophical belief that humankind made a tragic mistake by domesticating the common dog (about 12,000 years ago), then you're using the same logic as all the other sheep (10,000 years ago) who've written in. So we're probably never going to agree because you really are a silly donkey (6,000 years ago). So get on with your anonymous death threats if you must and get it out of your system (and don't let us catch you playing Frisbee with Rufus, Patch, Max, Molly, Gangsta or Fido because that's just plain cruel !). Realistically though, elephants have similarly been tamed (rather than domesticated) for thousands of years. Think 'Hannibal'. (For the purists, see "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond, which explains the distinction)

If your objection to the sport is a little more focused, and is along the lines that you think the mahouts carry sticks and sometimes beat the elephants, then you'd be right. If you think that the elephants 'hurt' when hit, then there is a good chance that you'd be wrong. The mahouts generally carry a bamboo stick and metal prod with a pointy spike which has a name that for now escapes us. Let's agree to call it 'The Prod'. Now consider this:

  • The elephants are mostly steered by the mahout pressing his feet behind the elephant's ears as well as verbal commands

  • The bamboo stick will occasionally be used to guide the elephant
    The elephants are literally thick skinned (0.8 to 1.6 inches or 2 to 4 cm according to www.chaffeezoo.org )

  • Good mahouts rarely, if ever, use the prod

  • The elephants are vociferous animals. They seldom 'complain' when hit which leads us to believe that they don't generally hurt when hit with the bamboo stick

  • If the mahout drops either the stick or the prod, he will verbally instruct the elephant to pick it up with its trunk. It always does

  • Experienced elephants have been know to kick the ball through the goals. The experienced players believe they understand what they're doing

  • During tournaments the elephants exercise more than they normally would and are hence fed more than normal

This is of course anecdotal evidence, but the elephants associated with polo are in fine condition and genuinely seem to enjoy the tournaments. This is not to say that all mahouts in Asia treat their elephants well. There are many which are treated extremely badly. Similarly, the dwindling wild herds often face less-then-pleasant encounters with humanity. It is the firm belief of the team that well-treated working elephants will do more to ensure the survival of the species than simply protecting them in the wild, although this is also a valid and compatible goal.

submit further questions to the team:

questions@tickle-and-the-ivories.com
 

 

GLOSSARY

ROGUE ELEPHANT - See ROGUE TRADER

ROGUE TRADER - A smart arse who does a lot of damage, ruins a few lives, bolts from the scene of the crime but is eventually cornered and punished

MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE - An expression, attributed to Colonel Raj Kalaan, a veteran on the elephant polo circuit, which describes the chaos which ensues when four or more elephants, descend upon a tiny, near-invisible polo ball

JODHPURS - Stretchy, tight-fitting trousers with padding in odd places. Used extensively by the horse-riding set. We are led to believe that all male players find them refreshingly comfortable to wear. We cannot however find a single male who will admit to this in public

PITH HELMET - Mandatory head protection worn by all players and mahouts. There is no denying that pith helmets are colonial-era anachronisms best worn with safari suits. The amount of protection afforded by a pith helmet lies somewhere between that of a Bloody Mary and a K-Mart shopping bag

TAKING THE PITH - Pre-game ritual whereby players choose pith helmets from the communal pool. Also refers to post-game analysis of matches by Tickle players

TAKING A PITH - Pre-game ritual whereby there is always one less pith helmet than Tickle players

PITH OFF - The deliberate removal of one's pith helmet during a game in order that it can 'accidentally' fall to the ground resulting in the stopping of play. See CHEATING BY OTHER TEAMS

CHUKKA - One half of an elephant polo match. Usually 7 1/2 or 10 minutes of elapsed time (in other words the clock stops when the ball is not in play)

CHUKKA-UP - None of the team have yet admitted to this form of behaviour

CHUKKA-WOBBLY - 'Spit the dummy'; 'Throw a tantrum' etc. Unsportsmanlike behaviour rarely seen in Tickle players

YETI AIRLINES - The airline used to fly players between Kathmandu and the Royal Chitwan National Park. Think of it as the Himalayan Magic Mountain Roller Coaster Ride !

FOUL - Hooking other player's sticks for example is considered a foul

FOUL LANGUAGE - Often used by team members on each other as a substitute for any meaningful advice, as in "You well and truly cocked up that shot didn't you Crackerjack"

STICK - The long bamboo device, resembling an overgrown croquet stick, used to hit the ball, hook other team's sticks, ward off rabid dogs and so on

TICKLE AND THE IVORIES - This is just the team's name. And no we don't think the team should be called 'TICKLE THE IVORIES' as this is the popular expression for playing a keyboard from which the team's name was derived in the first place

THE TICKLERS - An affectionate, and abbreviated form of the team's name

THE TICKLES - A term much disliked by the team as it sounds to her like the name of a performing sex troupe, or at the very least topless Parisian can-can dancers

TICKLE STICKS - Weapons of mass destruction amusement which will be displayed in Nepal 2002 for the first time

TICKLE TASKS - The tediously boring duties usually assigned to new team members

TICKLE TARTS - Groupies the team tends to attract at every tournament. While this term might appear to be politically incorrect to Americans, we would like to point out that the team is non-sexist and that this term applies to groupies of all three sexes

TICKLE TIME - The time The Ticklers arrive at the field for a match (always early). Also refers to the time the team finally gets to bed after a big night of drinking (always late)

TICKLE TOPS - A collection of off-field shirts and blouses being developed for tickle players, tickle supporters and tickle tarts. Contains the phrase "We gave them stick at [insert name of tournament and date]"

TICKLE TRACKS - A collection of songs (classical piano pieces such as Mozart's "Alla Turca"; Men At Work's "Down Under"; Jethro Tull's "Bungle In The Jungle", and so on) the team hopes to play on the PA system before all of its matches. Rousing music is acknowledged as a cheap but effective substitute to the garrulous motivational blither that is sometimes uttered by the captain.

TICKLED PINK - Refers to both a sub-set of the TICKLE TOPS and the general delight felt by the team when a new record (drinking, goal scoring etc) is broken by the team

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