Advani puzzled at means for measuring sports excellence

"I don’t understand the perception of sports in India. We talk only about (performance at) the Olympics. But we also have to look at consistency and people who are continuously bringing glory to the country," said Advani at a media conference today in Mumbai.

Advani felt that the emphasis only on mega events such as the Olympics puts a lot of pressure on the sports persons.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Pankaj Advani, who has won a total of 16 world titles across different formats of cue sports, today wondered whether Indians, in general, really understood the concept of excellence in sports.

“I don’t understand the perception of sports in India. We talk only about (performance at) the Olympics. But we also have to look at consistency and people who are continuously bringing glory to the country,” said Advani at a media conference here today.

“We talk about sports (other than cricket) only once in four years and only when there is a quadrennial event. What happens in the other three and a half years? People just forget everyone and things are to back to normal,” said Advani who recently won the World Billiards 150-up format title in his home city of Bengaluru.

“Of course cricket is there - it’s the no.1 sport and I have nothing against it. In fact other federations need to take a leaf out of BCCI on how to run a sport, but I don’t understand the way we perceive sport in India.

“If a person struggles and fails to win a medal and then finally wins a medal once in four years, we put that above someone who wins world championships regularly, year after year. That needs to change,” he said.

“If we are measuring sporting excellence based on what happens once in four years, then we really need to introspect. It’s not just about the Olympics. If that was the case why don’t we just compete in Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and not compete in other championships. We need consistent world beaters year after year,” he said.

Advani felt that the emphasis only on mega events such as the Olympics puts a lot of pressure on the sports persons.

“The onus on athletes is too much when he reaches the Olympics. Everything hinges on that one performance. A person, who may be ranked 150 or 200 in the world, can probably have a brilliant day and then win a gold medal, but that does not make him or her the greatest sports person”, Advani said.

“In fact it’s more difficult to win consistently year after year than to win a medal once in four years,” the 31-year-old cueist said.

Advani said he was glad to have managed to juggle his way between different cue sports — from long and short formats of billiards to corresponding formats in snooker.

“I am so happy I have been able to win world titles in all formats; the short format in snooker, six-red or 15-red or point-format in billiards or the traditional. The techniques, scoring pattern and approach are different.

Snooker is more a hit and run game and it’s more tactical; billiards involves long periods of concentration, endurance and flow.

“They are completely different sports and that’s the biggest challenge — juggling between them, just like two wives. I am enjoying, as it keeps me on my toes,” said Advani.

He said he was at his peak now. “I am enjoying my game. They normally say snooker and billiards players are at their peak between 28 and 32 and I am 31 now. A few best years are still ahead of me,” he said when asked about how long he intended to continue as a player.

“It’s never easy to win a major title the more you win, the more are the expectations. When you are at the top it gets only harder. Competitors are getting sharper and people expect nothing else than the gold medal; it’s very tough. I am glad I am able to perform consistently year after year,” he said.

The world title in the 150-up format was special, Advani said. “It’s a shorter format. Like T20 in cricket, it’s unpredictable and from the word go it’s anybody’s game. I am happy I was able to handle the pressure of the shorter format.

This is special, as it came in my home town and in my country,” he said. Though his latest world title was in the shorter format of billiards, Advani felt he was more suited to the longer one.

“I have more titles in the longer format. I did not have enough time to prepare for the world championship because I was playing snooker before that in November in Doha.

“It’s difficult to switch. Switching to the short format was easy and I was not good enough to do it in the long format. If I get enough time to prepare, I would say longer format suits me,” said Advani, who defeated Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist in the 150-up title-clash.