The romance continues

H. SATISH

Geet Sethi sees a great future for billiards and snooker in India. “Cue sports are no longer considered a leisure activity, especially with ladies also taking it up seriously,” he says. Over to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

He won his first National billiards title in 1982. Twenty-five years later, in the National Championships in Hyderabad, he entered the quarterfinals. For Geet Sethi, the eight-time world champion, the romance with cue sports continues.

Sethi’s game still has grace and class, and the 46-year-old veteran was the star attraction in Hyderabad despite the charge of the youth brigade.

“Nothing has really changed in the game. But there is a huge, positive shift in terms of the Government’s support to the sport now. The sport’s elevation to Category A is a major bonus for cueists in India,” Sethi said during an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

“In fact, there is a shift in the attitude towards sports in general. The medallists are being rewarded by way of cash incentives and employment opportunities have grown, particularly with the petroleum companies coming forward in a big way. Foreign tours and coaching camps are being funded. This is a significant development,” he explained.

What does he think of the future of cue sports in India?

“Well, I see a definite shift. Cue sports are no longer considered a leisure activity, especially with ladies also taking it up seriously,” Sethi said.

Talking of Indian cueists and how they have evolved over the year, Sethi said: “Each era has thrown up its heroes and their challengers. Currently, I am really pleased that there is real depth in talent in India. Earlier there used to be a huge gap between the champions and the rest. Now, that is not so as far as the quality of the game is concerned.

"Arguably, the greatest phase in my career has been the long rivalry with Mike Russell. The top honours have been shared by both of us. It was fantastic."-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

“With the administration of the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) headed by Capt. P. V. K. Mohan trying its best to bring world class cue sports to India, things should look up further. And with the Government waiving customs duty on table cushion and cues, the sport should be more affordable, and should spread to new areas.”

How does he feel playing today?

“The competition is definitely getting tougher. A string of bad results do frustrate me more now. I am not becoming younger. But I am happy to be playing at 46,” Sethi replied with a smile. “But again, the beauty of the sport is, one great result and you are back on your feet and looking for another long innings. However, I am a contented man. I have achieved whatever I could and have no complaints,” said the champion cueist. As for the best moment of his career, Sethi said, “Arguably, the greatest phase in my career has been the long rivalry with Mike Russell. The top honours have been shared by both of us. It was fantastic.

“I think I got a lot in terms of recognition from the government and the media,” he added.

Sethi admitted that though he gave up snooker in 1991 and started playing it again two years ago, he never considered himself a top snooker player at the international level. “Somehow, I really love billiards. It is my first love,” he said.

Sethi is a great admirer of world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, former badminton ace Prakash Padukone and the tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. “They brought results in their respective sports. Sania Mirza is also a path breaker, for we have never seen an Indian girl break into the Top-30 in the world,” he pointed out. “Anand is a real genius. Hats off to him for his sheer consistency over the last 20 years at the highest level,” he added.

Does Sethi have any plans of starting an academy?

“Frankly, I am not sure whether I can go down to the grassroots to teach someone. I don’t think I have the mindset to be a trainer. Definitely, I can be a mentor if someone needs my services,” he said.

He also has no plans of joining the BSFI in any capacity. “I think the BSFI is in the safe hands of Capt. Mohan.”

Is Sethi sentimental?

“Not really. But the Asian Games is one event which evoked lots of emotions. It was special for all of us,” he said. Sethi wears the tri-colour badge on his shirt even now during competitions.

How long does he plan to continue playing?

“It depends on a variety of factors. Let us see how things shape up,” Sethi replied.

Geet Sethi is definitely one of the most loveable champions ever to grace Indian sport. And there is no better sight in cue sport than when Geet is on song!