Need to have an eye on the future

Rupesh Shah with the trophy after defeating Alok Kumar in the final of the Asian Billiards Championship.-A.M. FARUQUI

Proper planning and execution are needed to take cue sports forward, and the cueists are content that the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) is working in the right direction. By Y. B. Sarangi.

For Indian cue sports, the present looks good but the future needs to be taken care of. Two seasoned Indians fighting neck and neck in an engrossing final of the Asian Billiards Championship in Indore recently painted a satisfying picture of the quality and competitiveness in the sport. However, the defeat of the Indian players in the pre-quarterfinals of the Asian (under-21) Snooker Championship, held simultaneously, showed that the nation needed to ponder over its talent pool.

The current world billiards champion, Rupesh Shah, who defeated the ever-determined Alok Kumar to claim his maiden Asian billiards crown, highlighted the point. “There are some talented youngsters such as Dhvaj Haria, Rahul Sachdev and Malkeet Singh (who reached the Asian under-21 snooker pre-quarters), but they need to practise more and improve their game. They require more training and exposure to emerge as polished cueists,” said the champion, who fought three back to back nerve-wracking contests to win the title.

Alok, a former Asian champion in billiards and snooker, concurred with Rupesh. “We are going through a phase of transition. The junior players look promising, but they have to improve a lot. Recently, I had given a proposal to the National federation that at least four junior players be selected for the exposure trips. It has been accepted. This will give the youngsters opportunities to play in international competitions and emerge as stronger players. They are our future,” he said.

Alok was of the view that hosting the World professional snooker event in New Delhi — which would feature some of the top players across the globe apart from six Indians — in October next would give a fillip to cue sports in the country. “A huge improvement was noticed in China after it hosted such events. I am sure the professional event will do a world of good to cue sports in our country. Our amateur and professional players will benefit by watching such great players perform. It will change the perception of the game (in the country).”

The two cueists were happy with the progress of Indian players at the Asian and World levels. “Our standard is quite high. Pankaj Advani, Aditya Mehta, Alok and I are all performing at the top level and delivering results. There are some other players who are also doing well,” said Rupesh, who had started his journey by winning the National senior and junior titles in 1993.

Alok, an Arjuna Award winner in 2003, agreed. “We are one of the strong forces in world billiards. In snooker, we are doing much better now.

“We have been doing well consistently in the last 10 years. When cue sports were included in the Asian Games, we started to get government support and it generated a lot of competitiveness and keenness among the players to represent the country in the Games. It gave us a lot of self-belief. Now that cue sports have been shifted to Asian Indoor Games (AIG), government should support the players for this event,” said Alok, who has never missed a National Championship since making his debut in 1987.

Rupesh had a slightly different view. “Moving cue sports from Asian Games to Asian Indoor Games had its effect. It was a little disappointing. As players, we want to participate in as many events as possible. But we cannot help it,” he said.

Alok suggested that India should focus on improving the players in pool. “Pool is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but in our country, it has not taken off yet.

“Snooker players being good potters can also do well in pool. They have to train accordingly. I strongly believe that with a little more effort India can produce better results in pool too,” he said.

Proper planning and execution are needed to take cue sports forward, and the cueists are content that the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) is working in the right direction.