CHENNAI: The name Vidya Pillai is synonymous with women’s snooker in the country. However, not many people are aware of her achievements. Those include countless national and international titles, along with being the first Indian woman to reach the finals of the WLBSA World Women’s Snooker Championship in 2017. Sadly, all this has not fetched her any sort of recognition; something she feels her sport as a whole is deprived of.
Despite having filed applications for the Arjuna award for five years now, she has constantly been overlooked. And that’s something that rankles her. “Cue sports has brought the most number of laurels for the country. However, people don’t judge us the same way as other glamorous sports. The system is supposed to be transparent, but I guess somethings are just not meant to be,” Vidya told Express. Interestingly, Vidya took to the sport quite late.
She was 22 years old when her friend and former India cricketer Hemang Badani took her to a pool parlour to celebrate a Ranji Trophy century. Since then, she became hooked to the sport. “I realised that this is what I want to do with my life. Initially, my parents were apprehensive. But once I started winning, those doubts were replaced by pride. My only regret is that I didn’t start earlier. Nowadays, there are junior and sub-junior brackets, which was not the case back then,” the 39-year-old added. Incidentally, she left a burgeoning career as an amateur photographer to pursue snooker.
Money continues to be a thorn in her path. Without a proper job and a private sponsor, she usually has to spend out of her own pocket or utilise winnings from an event to participate in international competitions. “There is no sports quota for snooker players, and even less so for women. People keep thinking that snooker is an elite sport. It’s not that I have not tried to find sponsors. Snooker does not have the same pull as other sports.”
With Vidya representing Chennai Strikers in the ongoing Cue Masters League, the 10-time national champion hoped the event would follow in the footsteps of other sporting leagues. “The league has an exciting format, designed to attract TV audience. Hopefully, the sport will grow. We (Chennai) are already in the semifinals and I would like to add another crown to my collection,” the 2013 IBSF World Team Snooker Championship gold medallist added.
When asked about future plans, Vidya spoke of the harsh reality surrounding her career. “I have to pick and choose events because of monetary constraints. I have not decided on my next event. My son is young and I need to spend time with him as well. An academy is definitely something that I am giving a lot of thought to,” she said. Gujarat Kings’ Icon player Andrew Pagett stunned an off-colour Pankaj Advani to beat strongly fancied Chennai Strikers 3-0 and set up a duel with Delhi Dons in the finals of the Indian Cue Masters League. firstname.lastname@example.org