Pankaj, Aditya are trail-blazers: Sethi

Pankaj, Aditya are trail-blazers: Sethi

For snooker to take off in a big way in India, a lot would depend on the performances of Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta in the next week's World Snooker Indian Open in New Delhi, but both have already blazed new trails according to nine-times World billiards champion Geet Sethi.

In an exclusive interview to IANS, Sethi, who was in Bangalore on a brief visit, opined that should either Advani, an eight-time World billiards champion, or Mehta wins the Indian Open or any other major event, then it could trigger a "snooker revolution" in India.

Although India is credited as the birthplace of snooker, the country has produced just two World champions in Om Bharadwaj Agarwal (1984) and Advani (2003), but in the amateur category. A few Indians did try their hand at professional snooker, but could not make much of an impact.

"Aditya and Pankaj have already surpassed the achievement of all their predecessors with emphatic and credible performances in their very first year as professionals.

"They are the first of genuine pedigree snooker players India has produced and they will prove to be the path breakers in professional World snooker from India's perspective," said 52-year old Ahmedabad-based Sethi.

Since turning professional last year, 28-year old Advani, the reigning World billiards champion from Bangalore, has chalked up victories against some well-established players, including four times World champion John Higgins.

Mumbai-based Mehta, also 28, has been on the pro circuit since 2008, and was a pre-quarter-finalist at the International Championship last year.

The Indian Open is the richest snooker tournament to be held in India offering a total prize-money of 300,000 pounds (Rs.3 crores) and also the first-ever full-fledged professional ranking event.

The following are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Your perspective on the Indian Open and the impact it is likely to have on Indian snooker.

Sethi: I believe it's great for snooker in India to have an event of this scale and stature.
Both the fans of snooker in our country and the top players who will be getting a chance to participate in the event will benefit immensely. Specifically, Pankaj (Advani) and Aditya (Mehta) who are both playing on the professional tour will get an opportunity to exhibit their skills in front of their home crowd.

Q: What do you expect from the Indian players in the draw - the six wild cards, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta?

Sethi: Of the six wild cards I think Manan Chandra is of the same pedigree as Pankaj and Aditya and along with both of them he could well win a couple of rounds. He certainly has the skills and the game along with the experience to reach the last16.

Pankaj and Aditya may well go on to reach the last stages of this event. Pankaj has reached the quarter-final of a ranking event last year and Aditya has recently won the gold medal at the World Games. So, both of them should be able to build on that momentum.

Q: Prior to Advani and Mehta, a few Indians did take a shot at the professional circuit, but none lasted long enough to make a lasting impact. In this context, how far do you expect the current pair (Pankaj and Aditya) to go?

Sethi: Aditya and Pankaj have already surpassed the achievements of all their predecessors with emphatic and credible performances in their very first year as professionals. They are the first of genuine pedigree snooker players India has produced and they will prove to be the path breakers in professional World snooker from India's perspective.

Q: Ken Doherty said the other day that India has the potential to become the "next China". Do you feel India has the requisite facilities and talent (besides sponsorship of course) to attract more such ranking tournaments?

Sethi: I don't believe we have the same kind of infrastructure as China and perhaps we won't be reaching that stage at least in this decade. But if Pankaj and Aditya can win this event or even reach the final of any ranking event played across the World, they will start a snooker revolution in our country.

Q: How can India build on the Indian Open as there are thoughts on rotating the event in terms of venue so as to provide snooker more exposure?

Sethi: I believe the event can be built to be an attractive property if Indians do well in the first edition. Rotating it to places like Bangalore, Mumbai or Chennai will also help, but for this to be really successful and change the snooker landscape we need Aditya, Pankaj or Manan to pull off some magic.

Q: With India becoming the latest pro snooker destination, do you see snooker becoming more broad-based/global and popular?


Sethi: Certainly. India is a huge country and a big market for sport. With China already taking to snooker in a big way, if it becomes popular in India, one is looking at a mass base comprising two thirds of the World population.

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