Top 5 cueists in India
With Dhruv Sitwala emerging victorious in an all-Indian final at the Asian Billiards championship, cue sports in India has received a huge fillip. Sitwala's win over Pankaj Advani in the recently concluded Asian Championships in Beijing may well mark the birth of a new star on the Indian cue sports' landscape.While Advani has been the most successful billiards player for India for nearly a decade now, there are many others alongside him who have made India a veritable powerhouse in cue sports today.Let us now take a look at five of the best cueists in the country.
#1 Pankaj Advani
It wouldn't be a fallacy to say that Pankaj Advani put India on the map as far as cue sports were concerned. The Bangalore-based cueist, announced his arrival in the world of snooker with a bang in 2003 when he won the IBSF World Championships, becoming the first to win accomplish the 'grand double' at the event, winning both the time and point formats.
In 2012, in his first year as a professional snooker player, Advani went on to win the IBSF World 6-Red snooker championship. In August 2014, he played a pivotal role in guiding India to a win in the World Billiards Championship held at Glasgow, along with teammates Rupesh Shan, Devendra Joshi and Ashok Shandilya. Advani has won the World Championship a whopping 12 times.
In recognition for his contribution to Indian sport, he has been awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and the Padma Shri, among many other honours.
#2 Aditya Mehta
Having turned professional in 2004, Aditya Mehta achieved widespread recognition after he obtained a spot in the 'Main Tour' in 2008, making him the first Indian snooker player since Yasin Merchant to achieve the distinction.
Mehta, along with Advani, has been at the forefront of asserting India's domination in Asian snooker. In the 2010 Asian Games held at Guagzhou, Mehta helped India win the silver in the team event while also lapping up a bronze in the individual event. He stunned Advani, 7-5, to clinch the Asian Snooker championship in 2012.
After he became the first Indian to win the World Games by beating Liang Wenbo in 2013, he put on a spectacular showing at the first ranking event that was held in India. Despite ending as runner-up to Ding Junhui, he had become the first Indian player ever to reach the semi-finals and the final of a ranking event in snooker.
#3 Sourav Kothari
After having won the 81st National Billiards Championship in 2014, expectations from Sourav Kothari were high when he went into the Asian billiards Championship later that year.
In an all-India final in which he was pitted against Alok Kumar, Kothari won 6-3 to pocket his first Asian Billiards title. Some of Kothari's other notable accomplishments include winning the bronze at the 2011 and '14 World billiards championship and breaking into the quarter-finals of World Pro Billiards event in 2010. At the Asian Billiards Championship held in Beijing this year, Kothari, although failed to successfully defend his title, won the bronze medal.
#4 Dhruv Sitwala
In a tournament that boasted the presence of three champions – Pankaj Advani, C Prajput and Peter Gilchrist – Dhruv Sitwala was clearly not the favourite by any standards.
But, Sitwala defied the odds and beat two World Champions en route to his first ever international title. In the semi-final, he took out C Praput to set up a tantalising title clash with Advani.
Sitwala had come undone against Advani in the National Championships earlier this year and was eager to ensure that the same script did not unfold this time around. It was the nature of Sitwala's victory than the win itself which left the spectators and observers of the game stunned. Sitwala dominated proceedings in the match from the outset and won the match convincingly.
#5 Alok Kumar
In 2010, Alok Kumar gave India her first ever medal in Pool at the Asian Games when he pocketed the bronze in Guangzhou. In a career that has lasted over two decades, Alok Kumar has managed to establish himself in snooker, billiards and pool, not to mention the fact that he has achieved distinction in all three cue sports. He is also the only cueist in India to have won the National Championship in snooker, billiards and 8 and 9-ball pool.
However, his accomplishments in snooker predate his feats in billiards and pool. As early as 2004, Alok Kumar won the Asian Snooker Championship, getting the better of the then inexperienced Pankaj Advani in the final.
Bolstered by his success at the 2010 Asian Games at Guagzhou, Alok headed into the Asian Billiards Championship at Kish Island in Iran, high on confidence. In the final, he handed World Champion C Praput of Thailand a clean slate, winning the match 6-0. Two years later, at the World Billiards Championship in 2013, he finished second in the point format.