Billiards and snooker - Sidelined sports that need attention
Variety is in India’s blood. From language to customs, culture to religion or the high mountains to the never-ending rivers, India cannot be restricted to a single uniqueness. This variety feature of India is now spreading across sports. Many think of India as a cricket-mad country, but those who are aware of its past and present knows that this country is surely more than that.
Cricket is a sport which is hugely followed in India and the country has achieved massive success in this area, but somewhere down the line the achievements in cricket overshadows other sports. Though highlighted now, but India has been active in producing world class players in others fields like hockey, chess, badminton, tennis, squash, boxing, billiards, snooker, kabaddi to name a few.
The achievements in other sports should be duly accoladed to ensure a capable future generation having expertise in a variety of sports. Now let's set our eyes upon a game for which India has produced many champions but is still a next-to-forgotten game in the memory of the countrymen – Cue sports.
Billiards and snooker are not interchangeable terms as they both are two different games which look alike. Both are table games with a different set of guiding rules and surely need different approaches.
Billiards, on one hand, is a more three dimensional game involving a far more range of shots than snooker. Its a game of patience and out-of-the-box thinking. Snooker, on the other hand, has a youth appeal and a more trending game than Billiards nowadays. Two players engaged at the table have a full-go at each other aiming to score more points. The player with the higher points, wins. So the influence on the opponents is surely more in snooker.
India has a rich history in cue sports
Cue sports have been prevalent in India for a long time now. It lacks a mass appeal and thus, the reason for the poor knowledge and concern of it among the countrymen. Although, the appeal is limited, India has even then managed to produce not only world-class players but champions. Players like Geet Sethi, Ashok Sandilya, Michael Ferreira, Wilson Jones and Pankaj Advani have brought laurels for the country in countless events and were and still are the greatest of the game.
The golden chapters in India's billiards and snooker history can be said that it started with the advent of Wilson Jones. Recipient of prestigious awards like the Padma Shri award and the Dronacharya Award, Jones won the World Amateur Billiards Championship in 1958 which gave India its first world champion in any sports. He was won the National Billiards Championship of India 12 times.
The spark he ignited turned into a flame and soon India had a new billiards hero named Michael Ferreira. Also a recipient of high civil honours, Ferriera won his first World Amateur Billiards Championship and Open Billiards Championship in 1977.
Idolising the two champions many more players came to the stage, but it was Geet Sethi and Ashok Sandilya that stole the show. They made many records their own. Sethi won the IBSF World Billiards Championship in 1985 whereas Sandilya won the Asian Games Gold in 1998 held in Bangkok. Sethi even registered many achievements in snooker too. Both are legends and even the Government felicitated them with prestigious civil honours.
All the above players are idols to many but the player that stands out even in the line of legends, the player who has the world of billiards and snooker in his hand and is surely the greatest that India has ever produced is Pankaj Advani.
Pankaj Advani, a Bangalore-born snooker and billiards player is a World Champion in both games, an amazing feat. What's more amazing is that he has done it 3 times. A truly monumental feat! An icon to millions and surely first of its kind in this sports profile, Advani has received multiple awards for his achievements. He was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, prestigious Padma Shri and Arjuna awards. This great athlete is still on his dream embarking journey with the hopes of millions upon him.
What the future holds for billiards and snooker
The future of billiards and snooker seem to be on track. India is one of the strong forces in the world of billiards and in snooker, they are doing pretty well too. To create a more happening future, measures can be taken like few individual players should be selected by Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BFSI) for exposure trips. This will give youngsters opportunities to face the international show and develop their game accordingly.
The motive is to have a look and inspire an uprising in billiards and snooker in the country. The game has a long list of achievements, but has fell short of capturing the attention it deserved. It is surely not the game's fault. What we need is a more wider outlook. Restricting the media and public attention to cricket, chess and badminton has acted negatively for the athletes who have brought laurels for the country in other sports and billiards and snooker is one among them.
India has the resources to excel in table-game sport it wants, it just needs the right medicine. The positive progress in providing facilities to cue sports players across the country will surely reap rewads, but this is a long term process. The BFSI should be praised for identifying the need and approaching a more aggressive approach in popularising the game.
India is moving a step ahead every day in the field of this table-game. Let's hope that the upcoming Indian players are able to weave a beautiful future, a future we all dream of.