Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interview: My mother is a perfect role model: World billiards champion Pankaj Advani

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Pankaj Advani is in seventh heaven after having cornered glory at the recently-held IBSF World Billiards Championships in Leeds, England. The 29-year-old Bangalore lad bagged a superb ‘double, winning both the point format as well as the time format beating Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist and England’s Robert Hall in the respective summit showdowns – it was his 12th world crown.

The ace Indian cueist has been on a roll this year, having won the IBSF World 6-Red Snooker title in Egypt and the World Team Billiards title in Glasgow. Pankaj spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.


How would you assess your double triumph in the IBSF World Billiards Championships in Leeds?

It's a stupendous feeling! It's slowly sinking in and I just can't believe the outing I have had this time in Leeds.

The year 2014 has been an awesome one for you. You had earlier won the IBSF World 6-Red Snooker title in Egypt and the World Team Billiards title in Glasgow.

It's been a dream run this year. I'm really glad that the world titles have come in both billiards and snooker, in individual and team events, all over the last four months. This triumph in Leeds proved to me and everyone else that my gut instinct to play both sports has been the right thing to do.

You got the better of Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist to win the point format and defeated England’s Robert Hall to win the time format. Can you briefly walk us through both those wins?

Well, both finals actually were close in the first half. Against Peter in the point format, I was down 2-1 before taking a slight lead before the mid-session break at 3-2. From there I switched gears and won the next 3 on the trot to win the match. With Rob too, I started slowly as I had an advantage of only 260 points before half-time. After scoring 700-plus points in the first two-and-a-half-hour session, I added a thousand more in the next two hours. But in both finals, I believed in myself and knew however I started, my finish would be much stronger.

Touching on the tactical part, what kind of strategizing one needs to do for the time and points format?

In point format, you need to win the first to 150 points and then that's just one frame. So, even if you score the max (150), scoring in subsequent frames you have to be consistent. In time format, you have the chance to score bigger breaks. You need stamina for the big ones, but the 150-point frames need consistent scoring.

You have had fair amount of success in both billiards and snooker. How difficult it is to juggle both snooker and billiards?

It is extremely challenging. To put things in perspective, instead of returning home after the grand double and celebrating, I have come to Sheffield to switch to snooker for the IBSF World Snooker Championship happening later this month in Bengaluru. I’m feeling comfortable with my snooker following the transition from billiards.

The Leeds win was your third double. How would you rate this double triumph as compared to the two other double wins at Malta in 2005 and Bangalore in 2008?

Malta was my first so that was definitely special. In fact, it was the first time they introduced two formats in billiards world championships and I was fortunate to win them. Winning at home in 2008 is a whole different feeling so I rate that highly, too. And this win made a few records, be it number of world titles in a year as well as overall, three grand doubles, etc so I really cannot discriminate between any of them. All have their own charm and significance.

You lost your dad at the age of six. Your mother must have made huge sacrifices to see where you are today. Your thoughts.

I owe all that I am today to her. The kind of struggle she went through made me believe that if someone can go through that, then anything else is possible. She is a perfect role model and I’m truly blessed to have a mother like her.

Legend Geet Sethi has said that you have another twenty years of top-flight of billiards/snooker in you. What’s your take on that?

I'm not one to see too much into the future. I take one tournament, one day and one match at a time. If Geet is right, then that's great.

How do you see the upcoming talent base for cue sports in India?

There are promising names like Jaiveer Dhingra, Aditya Agarwal, Laxman Rawat and Dhvaj Haria that we hope will make a mark.

Finally, would you ever like to get in coaching in future?

As mentioned earlier, I am an in-the-moment kind of a guy. Having said that, opening an academy has been on my mind. Who knows!

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