Shahbaz: Nationals ‘a stepping stone for every player’

Shahbaz Adil Khan, the 2011 6-Red champion, underlined the importance of the Nationals for cueists as he makes a comeback of sorts to competitive snooker.

These days, Shahbaz Adil Khan, is keener to play snooker.   -  R. Venkatnarayan

For Shahbaz Adil Khan, the 2011 6-Red champion, it can be frustrating to play the qualifying rounds here at the National 6-Red championship.

However, it isn’t his dip in form that has kept him away from competitive snooker. He had to take time off to complete his MBBS degree. The skilful cueist from Kolkata thanked sponsor Bharat Petroleum for backing him even during his period of lull. “I can’t thank Bharat Petroleum enough. They are my backbone. Even [though in] last two years I haven't performed enough, they backed me and they are like ‘we know you will do well’.”

Having taken up the sport more as a leisure, he learnt the finer points watching videos and playing. “It helps when [you] get to play with the likes of Sourav Kothari and Brijesh Damani,” he said.

Snooker ‘watchable’

Regular practice, he said, was key to his success. But these days, he is keener on playing the “more interesting” snooker. “Of late, I am playing more snooker. It seems more interesting. Compared to billiards it is more fast and more watchable. Billiards is boring to watch. In fact, there aren’t many billiards tournament compared to snooker.”

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Now back in the grind once again, he feels the game in India is growing quickly. “We have a lot of players now taking up the sport and a lot of them are very good.”

Nationals ‘good for you and the game’

He underlined the importance of the National championships. “The Nationals are a stepping stone for each and every player. If you make it to the final, you get a chance to play in the Asian championship. Everyone wants to play and win a medal for India. And that is what keeps all of going. A win here and we can go on to make a mark in the international level. There are many players who are good and playing them in the Nationals can only be good for you and for the game.”

However, it may receive more patronage and incentive if it is made an Olympic sport. “It is very annoying [that it isn’t part of the Olympics],” he said. “Especially considering that a lot of Indians are playing so well, that it isn’t even being a part of Asian game is sad.”

“We need to be seen more. More television audience will help,” he added. “In that aspect, 6-red is perfect. And not just in term of television viewing. Not only does it give a chance to everyone, it also tests the most skilful of players. You could pot five of the red balls and yet your opponent can take the game away from you,” he said, adding “even the worst player can turn the tables on good player.”

“That’s where I will have to doff a hat to Pankaj [Advani] for his consistency. He has won so many of the 6-red tournaments apart form winning the ones in traditional format,” he says.

Shahbaz’s plans to go professional “is way too long.” “I have to concentrate on the Nationals now, and take it step by step. For now I am here and I hope to do well,” he said.