Wilson Jones inspired four generations of cueists after him

The passing away of Wilson Jones, twice world billiards champion and independent India's first world champion in any sport marked the end of an era.

GEETH SETHI

The passing away of Wilson Jones, twice world billiards champion and independent India's first world champion in any sport marked the end of an era. An era in which a billiard player undertook 30- day voyages by sea to play in world championships in places as far as New Zealand, an era where a player played for the honour of the country and little else. It was an era where a simple man from a humble background with only a cycle as his sole worldly possession dared to dream, dared to excel and eventually managed to break the English-Aussie monopoly on world billiards.

Little did Wilson Jones realise in 1958 when he captured the first of his two world titles that he had lit a small flame which would transform into a raging fire of achievement for Indian Billiards. India went on to bring home 14 world titles after him, but nobody can question the role played by those first two world titles annexed by him. Those two titles were undoubtedly and inarguably the most significant, path breaking and praiseworthy of them all.

Wilson Jones inspired four generations of cueists after him. He provided a much-needed subconscious and conscious self-belief into the cueists who followed him — that we could be world-beaters. And for that we will always remember him and cherish his achievements with that special sentiment which can be reserved only for those rare exceptional sporting talents that grace our country once in many generations.

Whilst at the peak of his career, he suddenly announced his retirement in 1967 never to play competitive billiards again.

He continued to tour the country giving exhibitions and commenced coaching in Mumbai. In retrospect, he coached for three decades, perhaps spending more time in this activity than what he spent in competitive play. And like a champion player, he coached with enthusiasm, conviction and dedication and was responsible for the dramatic explosion of high quality players that emerged from Mumbai. Subhash Agrawal, Om Agrawal, Ashok Shandilya and Nalin Patel are a few of the international players whom he coached and inspired.

Michael Ferreira and Geet Sethi (in the forefront), along with others, form an arch with the cue as the coffin ofWilson Jones is carried at Sportsfield, Worli. "Jones was a great role model, a superb player and a fine humanbeing," says the author. _ Pic. ATUL KAMBLE-

Wilson Jones will always be remembered for being a great human being. Without a trace of arrogance, always exhibiting humility sometimes to the point of being self-effacing, he never had a harsh word to say about anyone. During his playing days, he travelled the length and breadth of our country, enjoying the hospitality of countless admirers and well-wishers. Each and every one of those people who he interacted with and whose hospitality he enjoyed would receive a long hand written letter full of warmth and full of genuine affection.

I first met him in 1977 when he came to the Sports Club of Gujarat for an exhibition. As an eager teenager who had been playing for just two years, it was a moment I cannot forget.

The overwhelming sentiment for me at the time was of course nervousness and unadulterated joy at actually playing with a world champion. He sensed my nervousness, cajoled me on, said a few kind words, cracked a joke and put me so much at ease. That was his greatness. He would put people at ease whether they were 15 years old or 85.

Later that evening I went back to Ahmedabad Gymkhana where I used to practise and at about 9.00 p.m. I received a call from him. "Son you played very well. Keep it up. I noticed that your left leg is slightly behind your right leg when you take your stance. You need to take it just a few inches ahead of your right leg." It was such a small observation for him, but which made such a world of difference for a keen youngster, who knew nothing about technique or the nuances of stance. That's what made him special. He had the time and the inclination to study my game whilst I was playing him. And he was considerate enough not to advise me during the match but a few hours after. And he was like this towards all players whom he interacted with.

One was sure to get a charming smile, some rib tickling remarks in Bombay Hindi and a warm bear hug whenever one met up with him. Every achievement by players after him was carefully noted and a letter of congratulation from him could be taken for granted. He was a great role model, a superb player, fine human being and one of the greatest sportsperson of independent India.