From J&K, for the love of Cue sports

Vidit Gawri and Abhishek Pathani are two self-taught players who have kept themselves abreast with the game in spite of many odds.

Jammu & Kashmir's Vidit Gawri and Abhishek Pathani are competing at the 6-Red Nationals in Chennai.

The profile of the sport depends not just on the champions. There are many, who, just by participating serve the sport as much.

It is their passion and the hunger that keeps them going.

Two such players are Vidit Gawri and Abhishek Pathani. From Jammu, representing their State in the 7th 6-Red Nationals here, the two self-taught players have kept themselves abreast with the game in spite of many odds.

Having lost the first game, they bounced back in the second to keep alive their hopes of making it to the main draw.

The double elimination, wherein the losers are grouped together and a winner among them gets into the main draw, has been a boon for many such players.

"The double elimination ensures that a lot more players get a fair chance of making to the main draw,"explained chief referee R. B. Ganesh.

For both Gawri and Pathani, the double elimination has been helpful. More so considering that they “needed time to get adjusted to the tables.”

Gawri, who has been a State champion in the traditional format for the past three years and a former India No. 5, picked up the sport just for fun. He soon got hooked and now the desire to be the best has seen him overcome the difficulties of paucity of quality coaches and a lack of proper system. His friend and partner Pathani, a State 6-Red champion for the past two years, says both of them encourage each other and keep up the spirits.

"We see the videos, watch them closely and learn," says Gawri. "There is nobody to guide us, We come to the nationals and see other players and learn," he said. Pathani added, "We see these players and grasp whatever we can when we interact with them and practice to iron out our flaws."

“Back home we play on tables which are quite different to these tournament tables, so it does take time for us to adjust, Gawri said.

Both of them feel the lack of proper coaches hampers the progress of the sport in the State. "There are no proper coaches, Pathani said. "We go back and both of us teach whatever we have learned."

Gawri said, "We have asked the State association many a time in this regard, and it is not that they refuse, it is just that nothing has happened as yet,” he said with a sarcastic grin.

Comparing their association to State associations of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Gawri said: "Ours is a sleeping association. Many a time have I gone to them, they say “’Gawri don't worry we will do something, but nothing fruitful has come of it."

However, they put it behind them and work tirelessly. Gawri said, “We have our idols like Pankaj Advani and others and wherever we meet, we interact and learn.”

“Also,” said Paithani, “finances too play its part. We do not have sponsors to take care of our needs so going to tournaments means spending from our pockets.”

“The more we win, the longer is our stay here and so are the expenses,” the duo smiled at the irony of it.

For now passion and the hunger to do well is what keeps them going.

And if the sport has to grow, it is such smaller centres which one needs to concentrate on.