When I was 10, I started following my elder brother Shree to a snooker parlour. I would watch him play with his friends. Then, one day, I picked up the cue and potted the first ball I aimed at. In the early days, many people laughed at me because I was small, both in age and size. It hurt at first, but when my school principal, Christopher Browne of Frank Anthony, Bangalore, told me that I should just let my cue do the talking, I stopped reacting and started achieving.
I got my first break when I was in school. I got a wild-card entry from the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India for the Asian Billiards Championship in 2002. I reached the finals and almost won. Even though I eventually lost, it gave me the confidence to play in the big league, and to lose gracefully.
My passion for the game is what keeps me going. I listen to music when I am stressed or feeling low. TV sitcoms cheer me up. Shree, who is a sports psychologist, is a great source of positive energy, but he does not travel with me. When I am playing out of town, my fellow player, Dhruv Sitwala, keeps me amused with his humour.
There were many obstacles on the way to success – financial, academic, professional rivalry, etc. However, the main difficulty was the monetary one. My mom had to encash her fixed deposits to pay for my international trips. It took a lot of time to get reimbursements from sports bodies. However, after I won my first world snooker title and joined ONGC at the age of 18, I could tide over this difficulty, too.
All my seven world championship titles have been my greatest moments of success, not to mention the Asian Games gold medal in billiards in 2006.
My success mantra
My belief is, winning cannot happen once – it happens twice, first in your mind and then in reality.
Message to parents
I was never discouraged from participating in sports or forced to focus only on studies. However, if any parent believes that academics are the be-all and end-all of their child’s life, they must watch the movie 3 Idiots.
Pankaj Advani As told to Neha Sharma