On top of the world

Pankaj Advani with the Arthur Walker Trophy after defeating Dhruv Sitwala in the IBSF World billiards event in Singapore.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Pankaj Advani reflects on his career with immense satisfaction. “In the past 12 years, I have won a number of titles, which is something I’m proud of. As long as I continue to have the passion for the game, I will strive for more,” he says in a chat with Avinash Nair.

Pankaj Advani won the World title — in time format billiards — in Singapore recently. This was the 22-year-old cueist’s fourth world crown, following the IBSF snooker title in 2003 and the IBSF World billiards double (points and time format) in 2005.

Advani is quite happy with the way his career has progressed and the pace with which he has been achieving success. “It’s been relatively good.

The first World title before I was 18, and four by the time I am 22. Yes, at times I feel that I should strive for success faster… as long as the hunger is there,” he says.

Advani spoke to Sportstar soon after his arrival from Singapore.

The excerpts: On stardom:

Being a sports personality and being recognised is a great feeling. Like Bollywood, and stars from the field of fine arts, we too are into entertainment. However, a sportsperson gets just one chance, while they have umpteen retakes to attain perfection. That’s why sports stardom is that much sweeter.

On idolising someone larger than life:

No. No one is larger than life. All are humans — in flesh and blood. Maybe someone without any ambition or doing the mundane stuff would say that an Amitabh Bachchan or a Shah Rukh Khan is a larger than life personality.

His role model and idols:

Mike Russel (billiards) and Roger Federer (tennis) are my role models among sportspeople… but then like many others I take a lot of positives from the likes of Amitabh and Shah Rukh too.

On his career:

Well whatever I’ve achieved has come in the last 12 years. I started my career as a 10-year-old thanks to my brother Shree. And in the past 12 years, I have won a number of titles, which is something I’m proud of. But then, as long as I’m enjoying the game and continue to have a passion for it, I will strive for more.

On the pace of his success:

It’s been relatively good. The first World title before I was 18, and four by the time I am 22.

The mind plays games. Yes, at times I feel that I should strive for success faster… as long as the hunger is there. But at other times I console myself with the thought that there is still plenty of time, and for now I should take the positives, be it victory or defeat.

On his strengths and weaknesses:

Temperament and natural ability are my strengths. Of late, I have been able to soak in the pressure. Probably I failed to retain the points format title this time because playing for the title was foremost. But once that did not happen, I just started enjoying my game and played freely. And the results are there…

His perception of a complete player:

To me a complete player is one who not only excels in his or her chosen sport, but also outside. Roger Federer for one… He has his Roger Federer Foundation and most importantly is an ambassador for the sport. Stephen Hendry is another complete player. But then when one becomes a complete player, he has no hunger for further success. The very fact that these players are not finished and want more titles is an indication that they are not ‘complete’ as yet.

On how he ranks himself:

That’s not for me to answer. I categorise players into three types: 1) Good players — the ones who achieve success off and on, 2) Great players — the ones who have won more than one title and are winning it more consistently, and 3) Players who are the very definition of the game — like a Federer or a Tiger Woods.

On the role played by his family and coach in his career:

My mother has been a pillar of strength and support right from my young age, while elder brother Shree was the one who introduced me to the game. Even today, wherever I’m playing Shree encourages me and has a word of appreciation.

My coach Arvind Savur, whom I call fondly as ‘Uncle’ has moulded me into the player that I’m today and all my success this day is thanks to his guidance and coaching. He has nurtured me at every step of my career.

His message to the youngsters:

The main tool for success in sport is to enjoy it completely. Without passion nothing can be achieved.