2017’s top 10 — Pankaj Advani: Smooth transition, sensational success

Pankaj Advani finished the year in style, scripting an incredible back-to-back double in snooker and billiards in the World Championships.

Pankaj Advani is no stranger to breaking new ground, and 2017 was no different. He finished the year in style, scripting an incredible back-to-back double in snooker and billiards in the World Championships.

In previous years, the World Championships for the two events were held after a month's break, if not more. This gave players like Advani – one of the few to compete in both formats – adequate time to make the transition from one version to the other.

This time around, the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) decided to have just a day’s gap between the two. This was done to sustain the momentum and interest around the World Championships for a longer period.

The odds were stacked heavily against the Indian cueist. So much so that the Bengaluru star entered the Championships with a modest goal – to win one of the three trophies on offer. That was quickly achieved when he pocketed the billiards points-format title. He had to settle for bronze in the time-format tournament that followed.

After a short interval, it was time to trade the safety-based, three-ball billiards game for the fast-paced, potting-heavy 15-red, 6-colour snooker competition.

With a victory over the talented Iranian cueist Amir Sarkhosh in the summit clash, Advani bagged his 18th World crown. The transition could not have been any smoother.

The laurels

Senior Nationals billiards championship

Gold

Senior National snooker championship

Gold

Asian billiards championship

Gold

Asian team snooker championship

Gold

World billiards points-format championship

Gold

World snooker championship

Gold

 

I call it the year of the doubles

Multiple-time world champion Pankaj Advani describes 2017 as the ‘year of the double’ — following successes at the Senior Nationals, Asian championships and the World Championships.

How do you rate your performances in 2017?

I call it the ‘year of doubles’. It started with the Senior Nationals, where I won the snooker and billiards titles. Then came the Asian championship, where I won gold medals in the team snooker and billiards events. And finally, I captured another double at the World Championships.

What was the highlight of the year?

It has to be the back-to-back World titles. To switch from billiards to snooker in such a short time was incredibly tough. And to win both, therefore, was hugely rewarding. The Asian team snooker championship gold was big, too. I played alongside two talented but inexperienced teammates in Laxman Rawat and Malkeet Singh. I have to congratulate them for doing so well.

What was the most satisfying aspect of your game?

I was happy that I was able to win even when I was not at my fluent best. When conditions or form are not in your favour, you have to adapt and get the job done. For example, in the World billliards points-format semifinal, against Rupesh Shah, I had to scrap to get small breaks and win ugly.

What were the areas of improvement that you have spotted?

I want to get more big 500-plus breaks in the time-format of billiards. This will help me finish off a frame in a couple of visits. It is just that we don’t play too many time-format tournaments. In fact, the last time I played in a time-format event before this was in the 2016 World Championship in Bengaluru.

Are there any changes that you would recommend to make cue sports more popular?

I think that billiards should move to the shorter format. The trend is changing - people want to see fast-paced action. In the longer time-format, a player can stay at the table for extraordinarily long periods to make a 400-plus break. When it becomes so one-sided and time-consuming, the fans lose interest. Even the opponent loses interest because he knows he has no way back into the contest.

Even in snooker, the trend is to make frames and matches shorter. In this regard, the launch of the Cue Slam earlier this year is a step in the right direction. The short format used in Cue Slam attracted even laypersons to the sport. The key is to make cue sports more inclusive and spectator-friendly.