‘The Dozen Man’

“I have evolved over the years. I wouldn’t say I’m a veteran yet. I am still a youngster, who jumps out of his seat when he gets a chance to score a big break. I am still the same, but I have gone deeper into what I do,” Pankaj Advani tells AVINASH NAIR after his stupendous Billiards Double in Leeds.

He is now known as the ‘Dozen Man,’ for Pankaj ‘Phenomenal’ Advani has just pocketed his 12th world title at the IBSF World billiards championship in Leeds.

“It’s yet to sink in. I guess it will take some time,” said the genial star, when Sportstar contacted him, during a practice session in the UK. Pankaj has extended his stay there after the historic victory to get a week’s practice at the ‘Mecca of Snooker’ ahead of the World snooker championship, which begins in Bangalore later this month.

PANKAJ ADVANI with this 'Points' and 'Time Format' World Billiards Championship trophies in Leeds recently.-PICS: PTI

Pankaj had shelved professional snooker ambitions sometime back to take a shot at this billiards championship. “In a way, that decision has been justified as I had taken two years off from the pro snooker circuit. Actually, ahead of this championship, I was eyeing only a semifinal placing, or at the most, a tilt at the title in one of the two formats. Winning a double is an amazing feeling.

“Billiards is under my belt now. I am focussing on the snooker world championship in my home town, and I will strive to do well there too,” he said.

“Billiards and snooker are like art forms, and I feel like an artist who performs on the highest stage. Winning gives a certain happiness, which is very satisfying. But, I guess everyone, be it a Tiger Woods or a Roger Federer — both of whom have won innumerable titles — are still hungry for more. But then, I don’t want to quantify my success or put a number to it.”

Pankaj stated that he had gained a lot from the two years on the snooker circuit. “It helped me become more aggressive and confident at the table. However, I was missing my family. I was also losing the winning habit. Once back here, being in familiar places and circumstances, I began enjoying myself. This victory is a reflection of that happiness.

“Success has many factors, and I am thankful to my family, Arvind (Savur) sir, KSBA, ONGC and the BSFI. It has been a stupendous journey thus far, and I am happy to be able to gloat on my success. I have realized that I can’t win every match, and that makes me more relaxed, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

“As an 11-year-old, when I started playing the game, I beat my brother Shree for my first title. The bug then caught on. I wanted to be, like many others, a world champion, and won my first world title — the IBSF snooker in China — in only my seventh year. It was brilliant to win a world title as an 18-year-old, and gratifying to extend the title streak all these years.

“It has been a learning curve right from that age, and I continue to sharpen my skills to excel. I work hard on the mental and physical aspects, and Shree’s help on the psychological front has made a lot of difference. Every title has been special, including the two Asian Games golds in Doha (2006) and Guangzhou (2010).

ADVANI... HIS RECORD get better and better.-

“Sport teaches you a lot about life. Sportspeople are high on integrity. They are philosophical and analytical. They understand that you cannot win all the time. You can lose, but you will never be a loser. It is a wonderful journey. I have evolved over the years. I wouldn’t say I’m a veteran yet. I am still a youngster who jumps out of his seat when he gets a chance to score a big break. I am still the same, but I have gone deeper into what I do.”

Advani’s coach, Savur, was thrilled with his achievement. “It’s been an amazing run of success, and I wish him many more such titles. The best part of Pankaj has been his focus and dedication to succeed. His victories, over the years, have been stupendous, and have brought me tears of joy each time. He has fulfilled all the promises that he showed at a young age. I wish him all the very best.

“I believe he is yet to touch his peak... and age is on his side. When one realises that he or she is not doing well on that day, but still manages to dig deep into their reserves and come out victorious... that’s the stuff champions are made of... and even in this championship Pankaj demonstrated that a few times. He still comes down regularly and we talk a lot on the subject... and also play together. I correct him if he is making a mistake and watching him play, I learn a lot, too. He is a fantastic boy,” Savur remarked.

S. Balasubramanium, BSFI Honorary Secretary, was all praise as well. “His achievements are unparalleled in Indian sporting history. His hunger for success seems insatiable. I am sure there are many more to come.”

Kajal Advani, Pankaj’s mother, was bubbling with excitement.

“I am on cloud nine, and only when he (Pankaj) comes back and pinches me, would I probably be able to come down to earth,” she said.