Brightest jewel in Advani's crown

Indian ace trounces Mike Russell in final to capture World professional title

Brightest jewel in Advani's crown

Pankaj AdvaniAdvani, who also won the world amateur snooker championship in 2003 and two years later the billiards title, became only the second Indian after Geet Sethi to win the World Professional Billiards title in its 139-year history. This was Advani’s third attempt at the Pro championship, having lost in the quarterfinals in 2007 and 2008.

The last time India won a professional billiards world title was in 2006, when Sethi defeated Lee Lagan of England 2093-1057 in the final at Wales.

The 24-year old Bangalorean led 1070-418 at the end of the first session of two and half hours and consolidated his gains in the second session even as the 41-year old Russell, the nine times champion, fought back.

Advani, winner of three amateur world titles, was off to a flier with breaks of 132, 93, 170, 91, 226, 93, 101 and 106 in the first session to put the Qatar-based Russell under pressure. In fact, such was the Indian’s consistency that he averaged a phenomenal 63 points per visit as against Russell’s 23.2.

Advani was only too aware of Russell’s matchless ability to pull off big breaks and so, going into the second session, the Indian ace exercised a good deal of caution to keep his opponent in check.

Even then, Russell, who had just one century break (193) in the first session, compiled 100, 219, 92, 52 and 129 in the second essay, but they only served to inject some excitement into the proceedings while not influencing the outcome. In reply, Advani cracked 85, 97, 136, 147, 106 and 71 to stay in front and eventually win by a comfortable margin.

Advani now has the rare distinction of being the World IBSF and professional champion. He had won the IBSF titles in 2005, 2007 and 2008 besides the points-format titles in 2005 and 2008. He is also the only Indian to win World Championship crowns in both snooker and billiards.

Advani had won the IBSF World snooker title in 2003 to emulate the feat of late Om Agrawal who is the only other Indian to win the coveted crown in 1984. Advani is also the reigning Asian champion having won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2009.

First steps

Advani first showcased his talent in 1997 as a 11-year-old when he defeated his elder brother Shree in the final of the B S Sampath Memorial tournament in Bangalore. The Karnataka State Billiards Association swiftly enrolled him in their junior development programme where coach S Jairaj worked on the basics.

Subsequently, Arvind Savur, arguably one of the finest billiards and snooker player India has produced, took over and nurtured Advani. The two developed a near father-son bonding. Spending many hours and often sleeping overnight at Savur’s Bangalore residence, Advani showed rapid improvement and went on to win titles at the National and international levels.

In terms of sheer achievements, Pankaj has exceeded all his peers including India’s first ever world champion Wilson Jones (1958, 1964), Michael Ferreira (1977, 1981, 1983), Sethi (1981, 1987, 2001), Manoj Kothari (1990) and Ashok Shandilya (2002).
Of the lot, only Sethi won the world professional title five times (1992, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2006) after turning professional in the late 1980s.

The purists would no doubt point out that Pankaj, for all the titles he has won, is still to crack the 1,000-break barrier that is often considered a benchmark for a player.  Both Ferreira and Sethi, have crossed the milestone that demands not just consistency, but also intense powers of concentration and ball control.

On the plus side, Pankaj is highly rated for his special ability to extricate himself from difficult situations like he was in against compatriot Dhruv Sitwala in the Leeds semifinals.

The Advani family moved to Bangalore from Kuwait in 1990 after a three-year stay and it was not long before the brothers took to cuesport during the period when the city witnessed a boom in pool parlours. For what he is, Pankaj credits his mother, Kajal, who brought up her sons after her husband, Arjun, passed away in 1992.

Pankaj Advani fact file

* Name: Pankaj Advani
* Born: July 24, 1985
* Awards: Padmashree; Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award; Arjuna Awardee.
* Achievements:
* 2009:
World Pro billiards Championship (winner).
8th Asian billiards Championship, Pune (winner).
* 2008:
75th National snooker Championship (winner).
75th National billiards Championship (winner).
IBSF World snooker Championship (quarterfinalist).
IBSF World billiards Championship (time format), Bangalore (winner).
IBSF World billiards Championship (point Format), Bangalore (winner).
World Pro billiards Championship, Leeds (quarterfinalist).
Australian Open billiards (winner).
7th Asian billiards Championship (winner).
* 2007:
74th National billiards Championship (winner).
74th National snooker Championship (winner).
Asian Indoor Games billiards (quarterfinalist).
IBSF World billiards Championship (time format) (winner)
IBSF World billiards Championship (point format) (pre-quarterfinalist).
World Professional billiards Championship (quarterfinalist).
Asian billiards Championship (quarterfinalist).
* 2006:
Asian Games (billiards singles gold).
* 2005:
IBSF World billiards championship (time format) (winner)
IBSF World billiards championship (points) (winner)
Asian billiards Championship (winner)
National billiards (winner)
National U-21 snooker (winner)
National U-21 billiards (winner)
* 2003:
IBSF World snooker championship (winner)
National U-21 billiards (winner).
National U-21 snooker (winner).
* 2001:
National U-21 billiards (winner).
* 2000:
National U-21 billiards Championship (winner)

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