‘The momentum is with me, and I’m making the most of it’

"It is wonderful to win a double, because it requires a lot of consistency and hunger," says Pankaj Advani-R. RAGHU

“If you have an achiever in a sport, the focus on the sport increases. My job is to win as much as I can, and take the sport higher in terms of visibility. People are now aware that we have achievers in cue sports, says Pankaj Advani to ASHWIN ACHAL.

Pankaj Advani, who, at the recent IBSF World billiards championship, became the only man to win the grand double (timed and points format) three times, spoke to Sportstar on the incredible milestone.

Excerpts: Question: Where does this achievement rank?

Answer: It is wonderful to win a double, because it requires a lot of consistency and hunger. You are required to play at your best, every single day, for two weeks. After winning the points format title, I wanted to relax for a few days, but I could not.

Four world titles in four months — what has been the key to your outstanding year?

I have gone deeper into my profession. The two years I spent in England playing professional snooker got me thinking about my game, and what I need to work on — physical, emotional and even technical aspects. More than that, it boils down to the desire to excel. I want to take my game higher every single time I play a tournament. (Brother and sports psychologist) Shree helping me out has helped as well.

How much of your success can be attributed to having a terrific support system to take care of your needs?

They have played a massive part. I have so many people to thank — the Karnataka State Billiards Association (KSBA), ONGC, Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI), my school, college, coach Arvind (Savur) sir and his family. It is a team effort. I am fortunate to have the right people around me who have backed me throughout my career.

Walk us through the thrilling timed format semifinal victory over David Causier.

Causier is a fantastic player, the defending champ in the timed format. It was always going to be tough. I kept the lead nearly throughout the match, until I saw it disappear like snow in the sunshine. Finally, I got the lead back. It felt like I got a kiss of life to bring me back from the dead. When I got that last chance, I was trembling. To be honest, even three hours after the match got over, I still could not get over it. My heart just kept pounding. I needed to compose myself, so I left the venue. It was one of the most exciting matches of my career. No international match — snooker or billiards — has been this close.

You had termed snooker as your ‘mistress’, and billiards as your ‘wife’. How do you view the two sports now?

I had said that a year ago, when I thought that snooker was out of my life. I was being distracted by snooker, which left me with no time for billiards. Now that I’m back in India, I feel that I can balance both. I feel like I can give equal time for both. Maybe now it is like having two wives.

"The biggest praise you can get is from your peers," says Pankaj Advani-PTI

Indian billiards stalwart Geet Sethi has said that you can go on to win close to 25 world titles by the end of the decade. Do you have a target?

The biggest praise you can get is from your peers. I thank Geet for showering such praise on me. However, sport is very unpredictable. You cannot predict who will win. It is very topsy-turvy, much like my semifinal win. You can go two or three years without a title, and then win four titles in one year. This year has been crazy — in a good way. The momentum is with me, and I’m making the most of it. But, I know that my achievements over the last six months will be hard to repeat. There is a lot of speculation on how many titles I can win, but I’m focussed on enjoying myself. I have never quantified success. I look at it like an artist. An artist views his work as abstract, without quantifying or putting a number to it.

Do you believe that your victories have lifted the profile of cue sports in India over the years? What more can be done to promote the sport?

If you have an achiever in a sport, the focus on the sport increases. My job is to win as much as I can, and take the sport higher in terms of visibility. People are now aware that we have achievers in cue sports. If television telecast kicks off, it will have a huge impact.