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Advani wins India's 2nd gold at Doha

Pankaj Advani beats San Oo Aung 3-1 to clinch the gold in men's billiards singles at Doha, writes Ajai Masand.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 00:04 IST

Pankaj Advani now rules Asia with his cue. The top Indian baize sport exponent, who has it all - the World billiards and snooker titles under his belt - added another one here on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old's dominant performance saw him beating country-mate and double Asian Games gold-medallist at the Bangkok Games, Ashok Shandilya 3-1 in the billiards event to open India's account in cue sports.

It was a one-two finish for India as Shandilya - the Mumbai stalwart who is coached by none other than the legendary Wilson Jones who passed away a couple of years back - bagged the silver.

Advani's cue worked the magic after he lost the first frame 76-101 From then on, the Khel Ratna awardee was in sublime form, notching up the next three frames with a commanding display, scoring 101 and two hundreds, leaving Shandilya stranded.

In the third frame, Advani did not allow Shandilya to even open his account. "Ashok and I have played each other many times before and I know his game. I didn't start well and he capitalised on it to win the first frame," said Advani, who has also received the Arjuna Award.

"But I came back strongly in the second frame. I was playing at the top of the table, which is my forte. In the second frame, Ashok was leading 40-0, and that's where I came back and got a 100. So, effectively for me, that was the turning point of the match. From then on, I just held my nerves to eventually win it," the Bangalorean, who is coached by renowned cueist Arvind Savur, said.

"The last two frames were also good and I made two breaks of 80 and 90. The rhythm with which I was playing in the quarterfinals and the semifinals was also good. I felt I was striking the ball very well," said the champion.

When asked if this victory was more special because he was inspired by the fact that he was playing for the country, the young cueist said, "The difference between playing at the Asian Games and playing in any other World Championship or international event is that here it is purely for your country, while elsewhere it is more of an individual achievement.

"The mood in the camp was extremely upbeat as both of us knew that there was no pressure and that the country would get the gold and silver, come what may.

“Ashok and I share a good camaraderie both on and off the field. This was the only event I was taking part in and I am remaining here for the next one week to watch the performance of the other Indians," said Advani.

"This is the first time I am playing billiards in the Asian Games. Four years ago I was 16 and played in the snooker doubles and we lost to China in the first round." Certainly the cueist has matured and is now a force to be reckoned with at every stage now.

First Published: Dec 05, 2006 20:33 IST