Snooker legend White is favourite for CCI crown

The 48-year-old six-time world runner-up is back in the country to win laurels in the cue sport after more than three decades. His last visit to play in India was successful when he clinched the national snooker crown in 1980 at Kolkata as a special invitee, beating Arvind Savur in the final.

White, a left-handed player and among the few who have compiled snooker's highest possible break of 147 in its world championship history, said today that the experience of playing with top international players would be beneficial to young Indian cuests playing in the tournament.

"Playing alongside top international players would help the Indian youngsters," said White who is highly favoured to pocket the top prize of Rs 1.5 lakh on the final day of the tournament, January 23.

"Next year we would try and get some more (interntional) players to make the tournament better," said the Surrey-based White who has won 23 titles in his three-decade-old professional career.

Also in the fray along with White are three other English cueists - 36-year-old Stephen Lee, 2009 IBSF World Snooker champion and ex-Arsenal junior footballer Alfred Burden who is also the practising partner of White and six-time world women's champion Reanne Evans who now plays on the men's pro circuit.

White said the game of snooker, after a slight dip in its popularity after the 1990s, is back on track again.

"Snooker is again in good shape in the UK. The World Masters final (first-ever all-Asian match between China's Guangzhou Asian Games silver medalist Ding Junhui and Hong Kong's gold medalist Marco Fu) last Sunday (at Wembley) was watched on TV by ten million people," he said.

The list of Indian aspirants is led by Aditya Mehta, currently trying to break into the top-64 of the pro circuit, billiards ace Geet Sethi and former Asian champion Yasin Merchant.

Mehta comes into the event after winning the singles bronze in snooker in the November Asian Games in Guangzhou and the team silver with Merchant and Brajesh Damani as teammates.

Sethi described White as "the authentic genius" of snooker.

"He can still recreate the magic which no one else can, but not with the same consistency as he did in the 1980s and 1990s," he said.

The former world billirds champion expressed hope that like China, India can also have two players in the World Masters final down the line - may be in 5-10 years.

"Our players have the talent and the technique but lack exposure to top level snooker in UK which is the Mecca of snooker. We have to be more consistent which will come only with constant experience at that level," he said.

The players have been divided into four pools of six each and the top four in each group would advance to the knock out pre quarters.

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