Pankaj Advani is all right with Sachin Tendulkar being given the Bharat Ratna so long as he isn't the only sportsperson to get India's highest civilian award.
"Don't end the Bharat Ratna with Sachin. As long as they consider elite athletes, I am fine. Leander Paes, Viswanathan Anand, Abhinav Bindra, Geet Sethi deserve it just as much. It is important that guidelines are established which specify on what basis the Bharat Ratna is being given to a sportsperson. Of course, results will need to be looked at which is why I named those I did," the eight-time world billiards champion told HT in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Having won everything there is in billiards, Advani is now focusing on snooker though he said he would play the 2014 world billiards championship. Advani skipped it in 2013 choosing to not defend his title because it clashed with a snooker tournament in China.
"For the moment, my priority is to complete the snooker circuit that ends next April. I will miss the Asian championships because it clashes with the Crucible qualifiers (for the world snooker championships in Sheffield, England. The finals begin on April 19, 2014). I would like to concentrate on snooker for another year and see how it goes," he said.
Advani said it was destiny that he would concentrate on billiards after winning the world amateur snooker title in 2003. "I was meant to play billiards," he said, simply.
It was the start of a journey that had him win eight world titles. "The consistency with which I won in billiards boosted my confidence on and off the table," he said. And then he got bored of doing the same thing. "In 2009 after I won the world professional billiards title, I had won everything the sport had to offer. I got complacent and my game stagnated."
The wake-up call fetched another world title but this year Advani thought he would "see what this fuss is all about," referring to the professional snooker circuit. Making the quarter-finals in two events and the semi-finals in one, he said, is a job done well so far.
"Living alone in England and playing the circuit has helped me in terms of temperament. I am more gracious in defeat and am a better and stronger person now. And that shows in your game," he said. Advani said managing snooker and billiards at the highest level is "in itself a high because no one is doing that now. Yes, there is a lot of travel, anxiety and stress but this is what I want to do."
Advani's schedule takes him often to China "where snooker players are treated like royalty." There are five snooker meets in China as opposed to one started in India this year. And it's not just that.
"In China, you are spotted at a young age and taken to a snooker finishing school. In India there is no system. In China the system is so structured that there is little chance of failure. Funding again is a crucial element," he said.