Pankaj Advani set to miss Asian Billiards Championship

Faced with a tough choice to decide between two top tournaments due to clash of dates, eight-time world champion Pankaj Advani is all set to skip the Asian Billiards Championship to take part in the World Championship Qualifiers, both scheduled in the first week of April.

A clash of dates has made it impossible for the ace Indian cueist to participate in both the events as the Asian Billiards Championship is scheduled to be held in India from April 1 to 7, while the World Championship qualifiers is also happening around same time -- April 3 to 14 in Sheffield.

"Being a defending champion, I will get a direct entry into the Asian Billiards Championship. But due to clash in dates with the World Championship qualifiers, I won't be able to take part in the Asian Championship as both the events are taking place in April first week," Advani told PTI.

"The dates are clashing so I will skip the Asian tourney. But I have asked the organisers of the Asian championship whether the dates could be changed or not. If they say yes and provide a two-week gap between the two events, then I can have a look at it.

"But I know they won't be flexible with the dates as it happens in April every year. So, if it comes down to choosing between the two tournaments, it will be the World qualifiers," he added.

Incidentally, Advani encountered similar problem last year when he was to choose between the World Billiards Championship in Leeds, England from October 18 to 28, and the International Championship (Venue Stages) from October 28 to November 4 in Chengdu, China, for which he had qualified.

As the only active player competing at the highest level in both disciplines, Advani has been splitting his time between Sheffield and India.

The withdrawl from the China tournament, the world's richest pro-snooker tournament with USD 950,000 prize money, resulted in Advani ended up paying a statutory fine. 

Advani said a decision in favour of the Asian Championship will result in his World Championship preparations getting hampered.

"More or less, I have made up my mind in favour of the World Championship (April 20-May 6). I can't take chances with the qualifiers because my Crucible preparations will get hampered. It's not much of a dilemma or much of a choice for me because last time, both the events were big. That was the first time, I had qualified for the Venue Stages. This time it's a different call," he said.

"It's the same situation like in October but this time, there is no doubt in my mind that I will play the qualifiers. I am working towards that and would be leaving for Sheffield in the last week of March or first week of April," he added.

Advani, who turned pro in Professional Snooker Tour this season, said a total of five to six players will be representing India in the Asian Billiards Championship.

"A total of 5-6 players from India will play because it's happening in the country this time. After a selection camp to decide the rankings, 5-6 will get an entry out of the top eight."

Advani recently created history by becoming the first Indian cueist ever to reach the quarterfinals of a major ranking event -- BetVictor Welsh Open Pro Snooker Series at Newport, Wales.

With an intense focus on the upcoming World Championship, Advani is hopeful of adding yet another feather in his cap with a good showing this season. 

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