‘A good coach needs to have self-belief'

Happy to coach Indians...Del Hill during a training camp at the Karnataka State Billiards Association in Bangalore.-K. MURALI KUMAR

“I hope the Indians come back with medals from the Asian Games. The players have trained hard and are very well focused. Their major threat should be from China and Thailand, but I hope they will take up the challenge,” says Del Hill, the new cue sports trainer of India, in a chat with Kalyan Ashok.

He is over six feet seven inches and looks more like a basketball trainer than a professional snooker coach. Englishman Del Hill is the new cue sports trainer roped in by the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India to shore up its fortunes in the coming Asian Games and beyond.

The soft-spoken Hill with his amiable ways is already a hit with the Indian players who are impressed with the Englishman's astute observations and valuable inputs. In Bangalore as the Indian squad wound up its final training camp at the Karnataka State Billiards Association, Hill spoke to Sportstar on his assignment in India.

Excerpts:

Question: Only recently have you taken over as the coach. How do you feel being here?

Answer: It is my honour to coach the Indian players, but I did have some reservations though, and I was wondering what kind of facilities existed over here. But I am truly amazed with the kind of infrastructure that you have at the Karnataka State Billiards Association, all under one roof. Terrific ambience for players and fans alike and it is among the best centres that I have been to — and let me tell you, I have been to quite a few around the globe. They (KSBA officials) tell me that they are going to provide a few more amenities for the players and that's great. I hope when I get back here next time, this would be a classy place.

What are your impressions about the Indian players?

I always had a high regard for the Indian players. Back in the United Kingdom, I have watched quite a few of them like Yasin Merchant. And in Pankaj Advani you have a great young world champion in billiards. They are dedicated and have tremendous work ethics and are very punctual for practice sessions, including the ladies. It is my pleasure to coach this bunch.

Though you were not a professional player you ended up becoming a professional coach. Do you feel that a good coach has to be a good player as well?

I took up coaching by sheer accident, when we moved from London to a farm in Lincolnshire where local pros came and practised and the young Ronnie O'Sullivan wanted me to help him with his game. I helped him out, and that's how it began. I would have coached about 60 top pros in the world. To your other question, I don't think one needs to be a great player to be a good coach, but to be a good coach, you have to believe in yourself that you can become one.

Why do you think we lack success at Pro snooker?

This question has been put to me quite a few times since I landed here. You need one big breakthrough and one great champion in snooker to taste that success at pro level and that will totally alter the equations here. See Thailand and China — a James Wattana could do it for Thailand and the new Chinese sensation, Ding Junhui, has caught the imagination of his nation. It can happen here too. India is as big as China and you have the numbers.

Why is cue sport confined to only a few pockets instead of becoming a truly global sport?

I think that scene is slowly changing. The game is booming in Asia and one is bound to see a lot more Asian stars emerging. I think China will emerge as a major cue sport nation, given their system and support. I get a feeling that they can produce players like goods in a factory assembly line soon! Yes, the game has to grow in North America, but it's doing well in places like Germany. And even in Russia and the Middle East there is growing interest in the game. With the shorter forms of the game like 6 Red, we can even make it to the Olympics.

What are your views on the 6 Red format?

It's more like Twenty20 cricket, but it does offer a level playing field. It has scope for a lot more action, upsets and thrills. Anything that makes this sport interesting is always welcome.

Which of your wards would you rate the best?

It's difficult to say but Ronnie O'Sullivan had the natural flair. He had the knack of making even the most difficult situations look easy but I would rate Stephen Hendry higher as he had been most consistent and is a multi world title winner.

How do you rate India's chances in the Asian Games?

I hope they come back with medals. The players have trained hard and are very well focused. Their major threat should be from China and Thailand, but I hope they will take up the challenge.