The name Anuja Chandra is synonymous with excellence; snooker excellence, to be more precise. She is easily one of the best female snooker players India has ever produced. Her passion for the sport is striking, as is her commitment to being the best mother she can to her recently born little daughter Ananya. This Arjuna Awardee is one classy lady who has inspired many young girls to take up the game. She strongly feels that it is her responsibility to encourage and support the game wherever she can. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda correspondent Taruka Srivastav, Chandra spoke about her career and aspirations.
Q. How did you come to take up snooker, considering it’s not a particularly popular game among women in India ?
Chandra: I started playing snooker from the age of 14. My father taught me the basics of the game initially. At that time I mainly played table tennis, and I dabbled in snooker only occasionally. But as time passed I developed a passionate interest in snooker. So really, if my father hadn’t taught me those basics initially, I never would have developed a passion for snooker. So me taking up snooker professionally can be attributed to my father’s teachings.
Q.You were the World Ladies Billiards Champion back in 2005. What was winning the highest possible accolade in the sport like?
Chandra: Winning the World Billiards title was like a dream come true for me. My coach at that time was Mr.Wilson Jones, who was the first Indian to become a billiards world champion. I am very happy and proud that I could fulfill my dream and become the first Indian woman to win the Ladies World Billiards Championship.
Q. You have been awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award. Would you say that was the highlight of your career?
Chandra: I was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in the year 2006. That was indeed the best and the most proud moment of my
career. As a sportswoman I always try to give my best in all the tournaments I play. But when you get rewarded for your achievements by the President of India, that is the moment you cherish all your life.
Q. How many national titles have you won so far?
Chandra: I have won 12 national titles so far. I have twice been World no.3 in Snooker, in the years 2004 & 2006. I also won Maharashtra state’s highest “Chhatrapati Award” in the year 2002.
Q. What is the highest break you’ve ever had in a match? Have you ever come close to the record mark of 147?
Chandra: In billiards I have made a break of 93 in a match, while in snooker my highest is 87. Unfortunately I have never made a break of 147, but like every snooker player I want to make that one day.
Q. You recently gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Does being a mother have an impact on your practice and tournament time now?
Chandra: Becoming a mother is the best thing that has happened to me. My daughter is 5 months old, so right now it’s a bit tough to take out enough time and practise. Still, I did became India No. 2 in the recently-concluded 6-Red Snooker National Championship held in Mumbai – I lost very narrowly in the finals in the decider frame. So I know that as my daughter grows older I’ll have more time and am sure I’ll win the titles again in the future.
Q. Do you still have a hunger for the game now that you’ve achieved pretty much everything everything there is to achieve in the sport, and that too at such a young age? Do you still strive to do more?
Chandra: My daughter Ananya and my husband Manan Chandra, who is also a great snooker player, are my driving force. Manan has always taught me to be a positive person. He also helps me in my game. Now after becoming a mother, I want to win every tounament I play, for my little princess Ananya. My passion for the sport keeps me going, and it’s never enough no matter how many titles you win. My hunger to excel will never die.
Q. Have you seen any progress in the ladies’ game since you started out in terms of their performances?
Chandra: Yes, there has been a lot of improvement in the ladies’ game lately. Some of the top ladies can also give tough fights to the men. But there is still scope for further progress – the women need to play more tournaments every year besides the Nationals. Also, the prize money on offer for the ladies has to seriously improve.
Q. What do you think about the attitudes towards the ladies game? Has there been any change in the way people look at ladies’ snooker?
Chandra: I am employed by Bharat Petroleum, and they have been a great help to me in pursuing this game, so I personally have no complaints in that regard. That said, India has many talented young female players coming up, but the game is still not being taken seriously by the governing bodies. Only if there are more tournaments for ladies and better prize money will the ladies’ standard improve. Bigger tournaments will also motivate many young girls across the country to play billiards and snooker and start looking at it as a career option.