Fairly satisfactory year for Indian cue sports (2010 in Retrospect)

By Anand Philar, IANS
Saturday, December 25, 2010

CHENNAI - To say the least, it has been a fairly satisfactory year for Indian cueists, notably Pankaj Advani, the country’s No.1 exponent. Although only 25, Advani has won virtually every trophy, national and international.

He ended 2010 by claiming the gold medal at the Asian Games, but in the course of the year, lost both his World billiards titles (points and time format).

Over the years, Advani has risen to become the flag-bearer for Indian billiards and snooker and has achieved an iconic status. As such, the expectations have always been high, at times unrealistically so, as was the case in 2010.

“Yes, I lost both the World billiards titles, but I would say it was a reality check for me. It is humanly impossible to win every match and every title in any sport and it was no different with me. Overall, I am quite satisfied with the way the year went by.

“I won a medal in almost every tournament I played in, took the National snooker crown, won the Asian billiards title for the third consecutive year, the Asian Games gold medal and also was a runner-up in the IBSF World snooker in Syria, my last tournament of the year.

“The trip to Syria was soon after the Asian Games. I was fatigued, but couldn’t pull out as it would have been bad for my image and India. I had no expectations going into that tournament, but I posted five centuries and lost a close final. It was a pretty good performance overall,” said Advani.

Poor scheduling cost Advani the World billiards title in the points format as he had just an hour’s break after a five-hour marathon with Peter Gilchrist before the final against the legendary Mike Russell who went on to win 6-0.

“It was not that I would have beaten Russell if I had more rest before the final, but I was too fatigued and couldn’t play as well as I would have wanted to. In that sense, I was quite disappointed.

“Then I lost in the quarter-finals (to Dhruv Sitwala) of the time format World championship for which I have no excuses. I was on a 300-plus break and required another 125 or so points to win, but didn’t,” he recalled.

As consistently as Advani played, it was Sitwala’s brilliant run in the same World Championship at Leeds that underlined the depth of billiards talent in India. Sitwala beat former champion Geet Sethi in the semi-finals by one point before losing to Russell by over 500 points in the final.

At the Asian Games, besides Advani’s billiards singles gold medal, India came away with the

silver in team snooker (Yasin Merchant, Aditya Mehta and Brijesh Damani) and a bronze each in individual snooker (Aditya Mehta) and 8-ball pool (Alok Kumar) to cap a fine outing.

On the distaff side, the only notable achievement was that of 33-year old Vidya Pillay from Chennai who won the Australian Open crown and went on to reach the semi-finals of the World Championship in Damascus, Syria, losing to the eventual title winner, Ng On Yee of Hong Kong.

In review, 2010 was much like the previous year when the attention was on Advani who continues to carry India’s hopes. Looking ahead to 2011, he said: “It is a comparatively lighter year and has a better schedule. Hopefully, I will do well.”

(Anand Philar can be contacted at anandphilar@gmail.com)

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