One has to pay the price for popularity and Pankaj Advani, the newly crowned World Professional Billiards champion, knows it just to well. For the sake of the sport, the 24-year-old Bangalorean is willing to go that extra mile to ensure that the baize game attracts enough attention to trigger a revival.
“Hopefully, this title will give the game a boost,” he said.
Advani reached Bangalore, jet-lagged and tired, in the wee hours of Tuesday, but has not been able to take even a minute’s rest ever since. “The phone has been ringing all day and there are people around me since morning,” he told HT from Bangalore.
But the champion is not complaining. “It’s so nice to return to a hero’s welcome. Such things inspire you to do better.”
Advani became only the second Indian after Geet Sethi to win both the World Professional Billiards and the International Billiards and Snooker Federation’s World Amateur Billiards Championship titles. “To be standing alongside a legendary cueist like Geet is in itself a great achievement,” he said.
What was cherishing for Advani was the way he beat Mike Russell, who he grew up watching and admiring. “He has been one of the greatest billiards players and to have beaten him gives me a lot of satisfaction. My approach was relaxed and I liked the way the match unfolded.”
Advani felt the early lead made all the difference and added that his title triumph would go a long way in giving a boost to cue sport in general and billiards in particular in the country.
“If such titles inspire people to take up the sport and motivate them to do well, then it’s the best thing that can happen to the sport,” he said.
Didn’t the championship, played amongst the top 16 in the world, put Advani’s skills to extreme test? “When you are playing against the best, you are tested in all departments,” he said. “But then, no victory comes on a platter. One has to work towards it.”
So, what next? “The World Snooker Championships are taking place in Hyderabad and I hope to do well,” he said.