MUMBAI: There is no wrinkle of worry as Pankaj Advani ponders the idea of preparing for yet another World Championship. The ace cueist, who has 21 Worlds (billiards and snooker), is revelling in the prospect of adding to his bulging tally.
“Every phase brings its own challenges,” says the soft-spoken Advani, who will compete in IBSF World Billiards Championships, in Myanmar from September 9. “When I competed in my first international tournament in 2003, nobody knew me. I used to practice a lot more. Now it’s the quality rather than quantity of practice that matters. I am more relaxed. There definitely are expectations, but I know I have done it before.”
Even as Advani prepares to cross cues with some of the best amateur talent — he is the defending champion — he will have to settle for the fact that none of his brilliance will be broadcast. While pro snooker is one of the biggest spectator sports in UK, cue sport hasn’t quite caught the imagination of the Indian audience. “I don’t see why it can’t be a spectator sport in India. TV is the need of hour for Indian cue sports, to take it to a larger audience.”
Advani has won world titles across various cue sports and formats. But the toughest and probably the least enjoyable challenge for him was to stick to professional snooker and play the UK circuit.
“A lot of people ask me if I came back too soon,” says Advani of his pro stint from 2012 to 2014. “I don’t think people realise just how tough it is over there. To begin with, all the matches there are played on Star Tables, and there are only a handful of those in India. It’s like making India play a Test in England without any warm-up events. Those tables skid a lot, which in a precision sport like snooker can just throw you off. Then the life, social life, there is tough. Food, weather; all of it just adds up.
I wasn’t enjoying playing there. Even Ronnie O’Sullivan told me there’s no point in playing if you aren’t enjoying it. He doesn’t enter all the events there because even he thinks the circuit is too gruelling. And he’s from UK!”
Despite the tough times in UK, Advani, who now wants to see just how far he can stretch his genius on the green baize, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of going back to pro snooker.
“I am keeping my options open. There are no numbers I’m chasing. I have been fortunate to play for so long.”