BENGALURU: Billiards, snooker and pool: each of these three different disciplines of cue sport requires different skillsets. If anyone has truly mastered them, it is Alok Kumar. In his 30-year-plus journey, Kumar has seen the game inside out, both as a player and an administrator.
As the former, he has seen the game evolve, bringing in more competition. The 48-year-old said, “When I started in the late 80s, there were a few top players with the rest just making up the numbers. But in the last 10 years, I think the general standard of the game has gone up.”
Pointing out the reason for that, Kumar said that the federation had done a good job of hosting international tournaments, offering more exposure to Indian players. “In the last few years, India has hosted so many international meets. Now, more Indian players can get entry into those tournaments. This way, they will get more exposure.”
However, despite these international events, the game’s lack of reach in terms of promotion has concerned him. As per Kumar, lack of funds has been the top reason for the failure to attract more talent.
He said: “There is no denying the fact that snooker is more interesting to play, and that the younger generation gets attracted to it. But on our part, we have failed to arrange more billiards tournaments due to lack of funds. If we could, more youngsters would have been interested.
“Another reason is prize money. With time, it should have gone up in all disciplines. But it hasn’t. If a sport doesn’t have the prospect of earning money, why should parents allow their children to take up the cue?”
Additionally, the presence of two world governing bodies — International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) and World Billiards Limited (WBL) — instead of one has also played a part in the failure to lure sponsors. “There should be one body doing the World Championship in order to avoid confusion for all. That way, prize money will also increase,” added Kumar.
Now, as an administrator of the game, he thinks that the start of an academy for the sport — part of a development programme that is currently underway — is a significant move.