KOCHI: Former world snooker champion Stuart Bingham believes giving Indian wild cards an opportunity to compete in a world ranking tournament is one of the notable things about the Indian Open. The fifth edition of the event starts in Kochi on Wednesday and the six Indian wild cards are all youngsters.
“They are getting an opportunity here. It is great for the event. I hope that it continues,” Bingham, who has played in all the editions of the tournament, said on Tuesday.
Among the young Indian lot is 15-year-old Digvijay Kadian. “The wild cards are all youngsters. It would be an opportunity for them to see their heroes play and to play against them. That was the thought process behind picking them,” Billiards and Snooker Federation of India president Capt PVK Mohan said.
Himanshu Jain is another who will be in action on Wednesday. He will take on one of the title contenders, Jack Lisowski of England, in the first round. “Playing in a tournament like this is like a dream for me,” Jain said.
World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) chairman Jason Ferguson is of the opinion that India is not short on talent. “India is a very important country for snooker. It really belongs here. It was born in this country. And India has so many talented players. Every year we bring a world-class ranking tournament to India and see new talent,” Ferguson said.
The event was initially scheduled to be held in September last year but was postponed due to the floods in Kerala. “We returned to this region because we wanted to support the people here. Just looking around, things have gone back to normal so quickly, which just shows the resilience of the people of this region. I just hope that we can play our part in making things better and show what a wonderful place Kochi and Kerala is,” Ferguson said.
World No 4 and defending champion John Higgins will return to defend his title but there is a strong line of challengers. Bingham counts himself as a strong contender for the title and tipped the likes of Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Anthony McGill and Jack Lisowski to be in the reckoning. “I am in good shape. My game is good and I am enjoying my snooker again. I feel like I’ve got a chance and this will be a great tournament to win,” Bingham said.