The Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) should take advise from India’s leading cue-sport players and examine the scope to change the format of the nationals; especially the senior nationals. While the qualifying draw for the senior national billiards competition had 63 players, the qualifying draw for the senior national snooker competition has received a record entry of 521 players, each paying Rs. 1000 as entry fee.
Only 10 qualifiers from the snooker will be added to 86 players who have been given a direct entry into the main draw. The qualifiers will end on Thursday evening with the Billiards and Snooker Association of Maharashtra (BSAM) which has taken the responsibility of hosting the 84th senior nationals, using in all 16 tables — 13 at the PYC Gymkhana and three at the nearby Deccan Gymkhana.
Pankaj Advani too feels that there is a need for the nationals to be played in two parts; qualifiers and the proper nationals. After winning his eighth national billiards title on Tuesday he said: "The quality is always there. I feel that the qualifiers can happen outside of the nationals. There are a lot of good snooker players in this country. You always see new faces come into the top 16 and top 8 every year, few though. There were lot of upsets at Indore last year. What they (federation and organisers) are doing is absolutely fine now, but I feel that the qualifying rounds have to be played elsewhere. They can start a zonal qualifiers. The sub-juniors and juniors can also be done separately with the ladies nationals. I am going to suggest this to the federation.’’
The multiple title winner at internationals and nationals pointed out a few reasons demanding a change in the structure of the nationals. "There is a lot of wear and tear happening to the table (after playing the sub-juniors, juniors and senior billiards). They change the way they play. They tend to get slow as the tournament advances; the jaws are trying to throw. So you don’t want an old table when the snooker tournament starts.
"It’s difficult to hold a nationals like this; it has to be bifurcated. Full marks to the sponsors, to PYC Gymkhana, to Salil (Deshpande) and the gang, because it’s the toughest tournament to hold. I am not saying anything negative about the event; it’s been great. I will tell the federation to separate the qualifiers for the nationals and the nationals,’’ said Advani.
Advani also recalled a conversation he had with the promising Tamil Nadu player S. Shrikrishna who won the sub-junior billiards and snooker titles, junior billiards title and has already played the junior snooker and senior billiards events. He has also received a direct entry into senior snooker draw "He told me he feels so stale. He has been playing day in and day out and by the time he’s reached the senior draw, he’s got stale. I used to do that, playing the juniors and seniors, back to back. I would have played for eight hours in a day. I did not mind that, that’s what we want to do. We want to play and compete all day."
Snooker is more popular than billiards and players from the traditional cue sports centres like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal have a big presence here, but the organisers have also received close to 60 entries from Gujarat and a few other North India States. There have been a few no shows; even then the numbers are unwieldy for any host to run the nationals without a glitch.
Ajay Rastogi may have managed to run many tournaments of long duration with close to two dozen match officials, but the time has arrived for the BSFI to work out a compact national championship; the ongoing nationals started on January 12 and it will end on February 2; in all 22 days. Two sub-junior events, two junior events, two senior events and as many for women make the nationals a tough grind.
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