Indian Open: Advani pulls out as world champions touch base

It will be a huge challenge for the only other big name from the host nation, Aditya Mehta, to live upto the expectations when the event gets underway at the Novotel Hotel here on Tuesday.

(From left) Former world champion Shaun Murphy, Indian cueist Aditya Mehta and the defending champion Anthony McGill share a few thoughts at the inauguration of the 4th Indian Open world ranking snooker tournament in Visakhapatnam.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

India's biggest name in snooker, Pankaj Advani, has pulled out of the fourth edition of Indian Open world ranking snooker championship citing personal reasons. And, it will be a huge challenge for the only other big name from the host nation, Aditya Mehta, to live upto the expectations when the event gets underway at the Novotel Hotel here on Tuesday.

By virtue of being the host, India is able to field six wild card entries to Lucky Vatnani, Pandurangaiah, Laxman Rawat, Srikrishna, Ashutosh Padhy and Malkeet Singh.

That this 3 lakh pound prize money event also features five world champions Stuart Bingham, Greame Dott, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins and Ken Doherty besides Anthony McGill, who won this competition held in Hyderabad, can well serve as a reminder of the intensity of the contests.

Aditya, former World Games champion and known for his long potting skills and big breaks, will have to step into a different zone to make an impact.

On the other hand, arguably the biggest star will be the four-time world champion John Higgins. Considered to be one of the best ever player in the history of the sport, the 42-year-old Scottish star holds the remarkable feat of being in the top six in the world for 16 consecutive seasons between 1996-2012. He can well be the biggest threat for another former world champion Graeme Dott.

It is obviously too much to expect from the wild card entrants though the element of surprise cannot be ruled out. In this category, Lucky Vatnani can bank on his experience of having played in the World Championships earlier and the BSFI president Capt. Mohan rates 17-year-old Srikrishna very highly.

But, Vatnani reminds that the quality of tables to be used here will make a huge difference to their fortunes.

For his part, Aditya Mehta says he is used to being the 'lone challenger from India' and hopes to win the first round against defending champion Antony McGill tomorrow.

"I am targeting the first round which is going to be a very tough one," he said.

Till the semifinals, the event will be best of seven frames and the final best of nine-frames.