‘Need to tap the talent in schools and colleges’

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different strokes Still an active player, Pankaj Advani has also taken up the role of the joint-secretary of the Karnataka State Billiards Association. DH photo/ s k dinesh

When Pankaj Advani chose to contest elections during Karnataka State Billiards Association’s annual general body meeting this August, he took everyone in the fraternity by surprise. Just 33 years old, holder of the IBSF World Snooker and Billiards (150-up) Championship titles and still the best cueist in the country by a mile, the Bengalurean was certainly not done with his playing career.

Also, the KSBA wasn’t in doldrums that necessitated such a move from the 19-time world champion. The state association has always prided itself in providing good administration and it still is the best facility in the country. Players, who call it the mecca of cue sports in the country, still love to come and train here and rate it as amongst the top practice centres in the world. But something inside Advani made him throw his hat into the administrative ring.

“It’s always good if players get into administration,” felt Advani, the joint secretary of KSBA. “Obviously, the priority is to perform for your state and country first and then see if you can contribute from the other side. (I decided to stand for elections) because as a player you understand what the difficulties are. You understand the issues more than people who have not played at the highest level.

“ Having said that, it’s never easy to balance both (playing and administration). I made it very clear and they (the state association) also understand that it won’t be possible for me to be involved in administration all the time.

“Only when inputs and suggestions are required or when it comes to technical expertise, that’s where I come in. But I’m enjoying it. It’s great that the entire committee has managed to pull off the Mayor’s Cup which happened a couple of months ago. It’s not just about the State-ranking tournament or doing the tournaments that are required, there are a lot more opportunities we need to give for the players of the State. With KSBA being the mecca of cue sports in the country, it’s upon us to ensure there’s more activity and more opportunities are given for players to perform and earn some money form the game.”

Advani, who departed for Yangon, Myanmar on Saturday to defend his IBSF World Snooker and Billiards crowns, said his main goal is to get more women and juniors into the sport. “We have a lot of participation among men, a lot of players coming in but to develop the junior and ladies is something very close to my heart. To get them to use our facilities, to get more deserving players, players who really should be here ideally practising because these are the best facilities in the country.”

Advani felt the playing conditions need to be improved. “They have been up and down for the last few years. We intend to get some new tables. We intend to host some big events. I can’t reveal much on that but we have some big plans. Let’s hope that in the next 3-4 months things hopefully take shape. Give everybody a chance to witness some high-quality snooker and billiards.”

Lining up his plans, Advani stressed the need to take the game to educational institutions. “That is something we need to discuss. It’s been there in my mind. For example, Mount Carmel College introduced cue sports as part of their curriculum. I’m sure we can achieve that in other schools and colleges as well.”

The Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS)’ new initiative — the 10-red snooker ranking event -- has been attracting a lot of attention and Advani welcomed the idea. The ACBS, during last year’s IBSF’s world championship, formed a three-member committee (BSFI secretary S Balasubramanian being one among them) to find ways to provide players a financial boost in terms of hosting ranking events. The committee then decided to have an event each in Qatar, China and India in an ingenious 10-red format. Two legs have already been concluded and India will be hosting the final leg early next year.

“It’s a great initiative by the ACBS to host the three legs of the Asian tour, have a ranking, a system in place, a structure. Not only have elite players from Asia and Europe participate in it but have it in 10-red. It’s a new format, it’s in between 6-red and 15-red. Many a time it doesn’t get over in one visit. In 6-reds you finish it in one visit because many times you may not even get a second chance. 10-reds has that element of skill. It’s a great format and also a great property because next year apparently there are more countries that want to do this event. And if we have 5-6 countries doing it next year, it gives everybody a great chance to earn some money and also to play at a very high level and compete regularly and improve their game. I think it’s a success for the players because they are going persist with this for a while now. I would say 10-reds is different and exciting format because it’s not too long and not too tactical like 15-red but at the same time it’s not too short as the 6-red. It’s a perfect balance,” concluded Advani, who triumphed in the second leg at China after claiming a bronze in the opening leg at Doha.

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‘Need to tap the talent in schools and colleges’

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