India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

June 2, 2006: Geet Sethi becomes Billiards World Champion for the fifth time

Geet Sethi is a charmer. With his debonair presence, the impeccable way in which he conducts himself and the awe-inspiring moments he creates at the billiards table, this IIM product from Ahmedabad is a cut above the rest. There is an aura about him that is reserved for champions. Perhaps a Sachin Tendulkar or a Sunil Gavaskar at the batting crease or a Prakash Padukone on a badminton court could create the same captivating spectacle. The common trait in all of them is the magnitude of their achievement. Geet definitely is in that exclusive club of achievers and when he recently regained the World Professional title (for the fifth time) in billiards after a gap of seven years, he proved that class is permanent and form fickle. The five-hour final saw him beat Lee Lagan of England by over 1000 points.

Indeed at the turn of this year, at the national championship in Chennai, Geet had a forgettable time with the younger brigade stealing the thunder. They are the ‘garam’ players who would do good for the sport in the country, he said in all humility, but each time he was at the table he did cast a spell on the viewers.

There was talk that the legend was beginning to fade away, but just six months down the line he has made a mockery of such a line of thought. Geet Sethi has regained all the hunger and appetite for big scores (read breaks) to get back to the summit, the domain he was once so familiar with. It was in 1998 that he had last won the World title. In between he had won the International Billiards and Snooker Federation’s World championship in 2001 for the third time.

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In all he has won the World title eight times — the first when he was 24 years old and now when he is 45. Age has not withered his determination or his penchant for excellence. “I have kept a strict regimen. I am as fit today as I was 20 years ago,” Geet had told a news agency sometime back and that speaks of the man’s priorities. His latest win is an apt reward for his discipline.

What is significant of his campaign this time is that he beat last year’s champion Chris Shutt of En-gland in the semifinal. Surely he has a point when he claims, “winning this title ranks among the most satisfying wins of my career.”

Geet’s good show is also good news for India what with cue sport being one area where the country hopes to reap medals in the coming Asian Games in Doha. In fact, Geet has admitted that the prospect of participating in the Games had keyed him up just when it seemed he was losing enthusiasm.

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Geet is ever a team man and it was heartening to see the younger players mingling with him and seeking his advice. The greatness of the man lay in the way he guided the younger lot. At every available forum Geet would speak in glowing terms of the current crop and in particular Pankaj Advani, whom he expects to win a string of world titles.

For one who had started playing at the age of 12, Geet has indeed come a long way.

Apart from the World titles, his collection includes a Gold medal at the Bangkok Asian Games (1998) and prestigious awards like the Padma Shri (1986), Arjuna Award (1986) and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (1992-93). “Maybe two or three years more,” he says now, but as long as Geet keeps his cue in hand, to be sure, the melody would continue.

[ This article was first published in the Sportstar issue dated June 24, 2006 ]