Pankaj Advani: Playing snooker is like driving a vehicle

At 30, Pankaj Advani has achieved what most in the cue sports fraternity can only dream of — 15 World championships and many more Asian titles — and still going strong.

Pankaj Advani's victory in the Asian 6-red snooker in Dubai made him the only cueist to hold the World and the Asian titles in this category simultaneously.   -  R. Ragu

At 30, Pankaj Advani has achieved what most in the cue sports fraternity can only dream of — 15 World championships and many more Asian titles — and still going strong. In a way, he is the Sachin Tendulkar of cue sports, erasing every possible record!

But how exactly does he keep himself going? “You have to love the game, enjoy it and not just think of winning or losing. Before any major event, you have to shut yourself from what has happened before and not think too much about what is going to happen. The intensity should be on giving off your best,” said the champion sportsperson on the sidelines of a BSFI camp-cum-qualifying tournament for the forthcoming World championships in billiards and snooker.

Fresh from his victory in the Asian 6-red snooker in Dubai, which made him the only cueist to hold the World and the Asian titles in this category simultaneously, Advani said he is glad that he did not specialise only in snooker or billiards. “The passion to do well and the desire to keep improving in both essentially makes things much easier when it comes making those fine adjustments. As players we also try our best to entertain and attract more and more to the sport and not just think of achievements and winning titles.”

Stay focussed

“Playing snooker is like driving a vehicle. Once you have the skills, it will not desert you. But the format is unpredictable as anyone can be beaten on a given day. You have to stay focussed and fortunately I have been pretty successful so far at the highest level,” said a smiling Advani.

“The pressure of expectations is always there but it has never been a deterrent when it comes to giving off my best. In any sport, no one can win all. Take everything in your stride,” said the Rajiv Khel Ratna Awardee.

“I am lucky to have a brother (Dr. Shree Advani) who is also a sports psychologist. At a certain level, it is not just your skills but the ability to be that extra tough mentally and be focussed that separates you from the rest,” he remarked.

The champion cueist felt that winning the first World championship in 2003 would always remain special because he was a nobody then. “I just went out there and enjoyed my outing. I am glad that I won too,” he quipped.

“I don’t think on those lines. It is like a relationship which you continue to enjoy as long as you endure it. Just keep playing, enjoying and the results will automatically follow,” Advani explained when asked about setting goals after having almost all major titles.

Follow the masters

“You have to enjoy the game and keep your eyes open. You have to watch the great names in action and if possible play against them. I grew up watching the likes of Geet Sethi, Yasin Merchant to name a few. That is the kind of experience any sportsperson needs when growing up to master the nuances of the sport,” the two-time Asian Games gold medallist observed.

“Thanks to the efforts of Capt. P.V.K. Mohan (president of both IBSF and BSFI) and the BSFI general secretary Balasubramaniam, there are lot more opportunities for the Indians now,” he added.

Reflecting on the general standard of the game, the articulate and sober world champion says that the competition across the world was very tough. “You have to maintain a certain level of standard to stay there at the top.”