Indian Open offers interesting mix, five former World champions in the fray

Among the big names to look out for at the 2019 Indian Open are four-time World champion John Higgins, 2015 World champion Stuart Bingham and senior National billiards champion S. Shrikrishna.

Action from a friendly match between India's 16-year-old wild card entrant Digvijay Kadian (left) and Dominic Dale of Wales ahead of the fifth Indian Open world-ranking snooker tournament in Kochi.   -  Special Arrangement

With as many as five former World champions in the fray, the Indian Open world-ranking snooker tournament, which begins at the Grand Hyatt, Bolghatty Island, on Wednesday will offer a healthy mix.

Among the big names to look out for are Scotland’s four-time World champion John Higgins, the defending champion here, England’s 2015 World champion Stuart Bingham and Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Noon. The five-day event, with a total prize money of nearly Rs 3 crore, will also feature six Indians.

The Indians in the fray, all amateurs, have been given wild cards in the 64-draw event with Chennai’s senior National billiards champion S. Shrikrishna, Bhubaneswar’s Asutosh Padhy and Rohtak’s Digvijay Kadian keen to pick up plenty of lessons here.

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“Our wild cards have all been given to youngsters this time. We rotate the wild cards depending on the prospects of our players and now you have a 16-year-old playing this time,” said P.V.K. Mohan, the president of the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India. “They would love to see their heroes in action.”

The Indian Open, now in its fifth year, appears to be improving in quality each year. Apart from the five former World champions (England’s Shaun Murphy, Peter Ebdun and Scotland’s Graeme Dott are the others), this time the event has six of the world’s top 15 in the fray.

Stuart Bingham, who has played in all the four previous editions of the tournament, said John Higgins and Shaun Murphy could be among his toughest opponents here.

All matches till the semifinals will be played over seven frames while the final will be a nine-frame affair. Matches begin at 11 a.m. and will be telecast live on the Sony network.