Pankaj proves a cut above

Pankaj proves a cut above

Cue sports

Pankaj proves a cut above

Pankaj Advani

Pankaj Advani, the 24-year old from Bangalore, will have every reason to look back on 2009 with more than passing interest. His back-to-back titles in the Asian and World billiards championships confirmed his status as the best player in the three-ball version; more so considering that he defeated Mike Russell, arguably the greatest billiards player in modern era, in the final of the World Championship where two other Indians, Rupesh Shah and Dhruv Sitwala, reached the semifinals.

The win over Russell saw Advani scaling the last of the peaks to reach the billiards Everest. However, he would have liked to have ended the year better by winning the IBSF World snooker championship in Hyderabad in November. He lost to the unheralded Anthony Brabin of Scotland in the second round of the knockout phase. In fact, it was Bhopal’s Kamal Chawla who outshone his compatriots by reaching the quarterfinals after scalping Brabin.

Even as Advani, who achieved a double at the National Championship, set new benchmarks for Indian cueists, even if only in billiards, his compatriots, notably the talented Manan Chandra and Aditya Mehta, a quarterfinalist at the Asian snooker championship in China, flattered to deceive.

The two along with Brijesh Damani claimed the gold medal in the snooker team event at the Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam, prior to the World Championship, but that was of little consolation.

Same was the case with Advani who came away from Vietnam with a bronze medal in billiards where he lost to Russell’s close friend, Peter Gilchrist, in the semifinals before winning the play-off against Myanmar’s Kyaw Oo.

On the distaff side, Chitra Magimairaj from Bangalore was the standard-bearer. She was a runner-up in the World billiards championship and the Australian Open snooker before ending the year as a quarterfinalist in the World snooker event at Hyderabad.
By all accounts, Chitra showed tremendous potential that could yet see her scale greater heights sooner than later if she could play with far more freedom and follow her attacking instincts. In Hyderabad, she, like Vidya Pillai, had her chances, but failed to capitalise on them. Vidya, the top seed for the knock-out rounds, blew a 2-0 advantage and lost 3-4 in the pre-quarterfinals to Australia’s Kathy Parashis, the eventual finalist.

The Round of 16 also saw the exit of National champion Meenal Thakur, her younger sister Anuja Chandra and Neena Parveen to complete a rather disappointing tournament for India.