"I'm known in the country because of the game"

The 14-time World Billiards and Snooker Champion, Pankaj Advani, spoke about the importance of Sportstar magazine, the good and bad side of being a sportsperson in India at the launch of Sportstar Digital Edition.

Pankaj Advani at the launch of Sportstar Digital Edition on Sunday.   -  The Hindu

You were the Sportstar Sportsperson of the Year in 2003. Your impressions of Sportstar magazine?

It’s great that Sportstar looks at sport in its truest form and that is obviously the performance and achievements of Indian athletes in particular. It has been there for such a long time. Since I started playing, I have been reading the Sportstar. It is great that we have a magazine dedicated to sports. Congratulations on the website launch! I feel really happy to read about Indian athletes and it is written so well in the Sportstar.

What do you think are the good things and the bad things about being a sportsperson in India?

People have now opened up to sports, they now know it is a serious business. I love sport in general and I think it is serious entertainment. As a professional sportsperson, I know it is my bread and butter, and I know I have to respect it and be dedicated towards it. I am glad that we now have a chance to make a career in sports. It was probably much harder 20 years ago but people still did it out of self-motivation. But today, the system is much better in that sense. There are a lot of public sector companies supporting sportspersons so that encourages people to pick up sports as a career. Even educational institutions are very supportive and encouraging. People are finally accepting sport as a way of life.

I still feel that our sporting policy does not revolve around the athlete. A lot of bureaucracy and red-tapism is hindering our preparations and focus for major tournaments. Officials don’t seem to understand the value and time of a sportsperson. We have so many people in our country and yet we are unable to find consistent world-beaters in every sport. There needs to be more professionalism in Indian sport. People need to understand that sportspersons need to focus on their game and not worry about anything else.

What has cue sports given you?

I think it has given me focus in life. Had I not played the game, had I not picked it up at the age of 10, I would have gone astray. I may have not channelised my energy into something productive. I may not have found a career which is fulfilling. It has taught me a lot of lessons and it has given me my identity. Today if I’m known in the country, it is because of the game. I have learnt how to value it and respect it.