Pankaj Advani's journey to India's finest cueist
Cue sports are quite a popular form of sport around the world. Yet, here in India the game hasn’t really caught on. We have had our share of some great players in billiards in the past, most notably Wilson Jones, Michael Ferreira, and more recently Geet Sethi. In the recent past, the rise of Pankaj Advani has given a new sense of hope and dimension to the youth. The ‘Golden Boy’ is living out an illustrious career and boasts of an awe-inspiring list of achievements at such a young age. Advani, in the purest sense, is the pride and joy of India’s cue sports and an inspiration for all of the youngsters in India.
Where and how it all started
Advani took to cue sports when he was only 10 years old. Residing in Bangalore, he would accompany his elder brother Shree to a snooker parlour nearby their house, after school. Initially, he would watch as his brother played with his friends, but a day came when he begged to play with them. And as they say, the rest is all history.
It seemed that the youngster was destined to become a champion the moment he held the cue stick in his hands. Little did anyone know at that time just how much talent the younger Advani possessed, but what was truly amazing was that on his very first attempt he pocketed the red ball. From that moment on, he never looked back.
A year later, he was already the state champion in snooker. He achieved this feat by defeating his brother and mentor Shree in the finals. Thus, his road towards a successful career had begun at a tender age of 11.
Advani has enjoyed success in both Snooker and Billiards
Even though both snooker and billiards fall under the category of cue sports, the two are as different as a test match and a T20 in Cricket. The main difference between the two is obviously with regards to the number of balls. Billiards consists of only 3 balls which are red, yellow and white. Snooker on the other hand consists of 15 red balls, 6 colour balls along with one cue ball.
Scoring points in both games is also different. For billiards, points can be scored by either potting, in-offs (cue ball is potted) or by cannons (Cue ball hits both other balls before coming to rest). In snooker, a player has to first pot a red ball and then follows it up with one of the colour balls until all the red balls are potted. After that, the remaining colour balls are potted in order of their points. The points for the respective balls are red-1, yellow-2, green-3, brown-4, blue-5, pink-6 and black-7.
Apart from this, snooker tables are larger in dimension as compared to billiards tables. Snooker tables are generally 12 feet x 6 feet in dimension, whereas billiards tables come in various dimensions with a 2:1 ratio. For e.g. (9 x 4.5 feet), (8 x 4 feet).
Having taken the above into account, it is extremely rare to find people who enjoy playing both these forms of cue sports at a professional level. Naturally, players will develop one game and devote their career to it. Advani, however has not only enjoyed playing both the games at the highest level but he has also won world titles in both sports. Just to give you an idea of how difficult and an extraordinary this feat is let’s look at a fact. Pankaj Advani is the only player in the world to have managed to win world titles in all formats of both snooker and billiards.
The skill sets required for both games differ accordingly and to adapt to the two games is not the easiest thing on the planet. As Advani himself has stated: “It is a herculean task. Nobody will truly understand the depth of the challenges and complexities of trying to excel in two sports. Right from cueing to mindset to skill sets, most of the aspects have to be adjusted.”
In billiards one needs to have a very fine touch in order to corral all the balls in a small space so as to keep scoring points. Some breaks can also run into thousands and thus a high level of concentration is required for a long duration. The game of snooker requires a little bit more precision as the standard tables are longer and also the balls and pockets are generally smaller than billiards.
Advani can be the face of cue sports in India
Given all the achievements of Advani till date, it is very difficult to single out any particular moment as his greatest accomplishment. After all, he is now a 12-time World Billiards and Snooker Champion. He won his very first World Title at a tender age of 18 which in itself is no mean accomplishment. One of the greatest achievements was being the first one in history to win the Grand Double (both the points and time formats in the same year) in 2005 at the IBSF World Billiards Championship. This feat he has now conquered 3 times with the latest one coming just last month.
However, 2014 has been a phenomenal one for the Indian. To go along with his 3rd Grand Double in Billiards, Advani also won his very first World Team Billiards Championship and also was crowned as the Champion in the IBSF World 6-Red Snooker Championships. With these four titles in 2014, he has added to his already glittering career and is showing no signs of slowing down. With age on his side there is no telling just how far into the history books the Bangalorian will go.
In recognition of Advani’s talent and for all his success in the game, the Indian Government has already bestowed upon him various honours such as the Rajiv Gandhi Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna as well as the Padmashree.
The past year or so has been quite eventful in India as many other sports are now being thrust more into the limelight than ever before. Yet, irrespective of the publicity and endorsements being undertaken every sport requires a face that people can connect with. And, for cue sports there can be no one better in India at the moment than Pankaj Advani. Only time will tell however if there are others willing to follow in his footsteps and bring more glamour to India in this particular sport. Till then, Advani will surely keep the Tricolour flying high.