The IBSF World Snooker Championship returns to India after 22 years as the 35th edition of the annual event commences in Hyderabad on Sunday at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) where 20 spanking new tables are laid out in one hall.
The 10-day cue sport extravaganza, that was last held in India at Bangalore in 1987, has fair representation from across the world, but the focus would be on the Indians among whom Pankaj Advani who had won the event in 2003, and billiards ace Geet Sethi, a finalist last year, are reckoned to be the best prospects to win titles in the Men’s and Masters (Over 40) categories, respectively.
Advani, at 24, has his best years ahead of him, though he has to his credit seven World and three Asian titles. All his international triumphs, barring the 2003 success, have been in billiards. As such, he would be keen to win the world snooker crown a second time.
“There will be pressure for sure since it is in India, but I hope to do well in front of the home crowd. I have been practising hard, and my immediate goal is to first qualify for the knock-out stage. Beyond that, there is not much one can say,” said Advani.
In fact, at the Asian Indoor Games in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, earlier this month, Advani lost in the pre-quarter-finals while compatriot Manan Chandra, the gifted player from Delhi, made it to the semi-finals, but lost the bronze medal play-off against UAE’s Mohammed Mustafa Al-Hashmi.
Advani felt that the major threats would be from the traditional powerhouses England and Wales, besides Thailand, China and UAE. “The Thai players have been performing quite well in the past couple of years, and so also the ones from UAE,” he pointed out. The 2007 championship witnessed an all-Thailand final and last year, another Thai (Thepchaiya Un-Nooh) won the title.