National Billiards C'ship: Kothari, Parikh register wins

In the senior men’s billiards league phase of the National billiards and snooker championship, the defending champion, Petroleum Sports Promotion Board’s Sourav Kothari and last year’s runner up from Railways, Siddharth Parikh, registered wins against Sonam Gurung and Ajinkya Agnihotri respectively.

S. Srikrishna of Tamil Nadu won his first league match against Nikhil Ghadge.   -  K. Murali Kumar (File Photo)

Almost all the regulars who have a passion for billiards made an appearance on the first day of league phase of the Manisha National Billiards and Snooker Championship at the PYC Gymkhana here on Friday. Absent, though, were Punjab’s Dharminder Lilly, Rajasthan’s Jaswinder Singh and Haryana’s Vishvas Mangla.

Cue sport may not be a medal sport at the Asian Games anymore, but two senior players - West Bengal’s Shyam Jagtiani and Petroleum Sports Promotion Board’s Alok Kumar - and another large group of the serious practitioners of the billiards led by the multiple world champion, Pankaj Advani, lit up the competition and evoked awe and admiration among the youngsters. A teenager like Tamil Nadu’s S. Shrikrishna, too, has been garnishing lavish praise.

Some aspects of the sport have still remained the same, although champion players, most notably Advani, have spoken for a big change to make it spectator friendly.

Seven years ago, the 31-year-old Advani said he would like the sport to shed its good old bow tie dress code and go for an image makeover. But the champion billiards snooker artist’s hope appears to be far-fetched; the tradition of wearing formal shoes, bow-tie and sleeveless jackets is omnipresent at the club’s premises and inside the playing hall.

‘Unique record’

The senior men’s billiards league phase started with the defending champion, PSPB’s Sourav Kothari and last year’s runner up from Railways, Siddharth Parikh, Karnataka’s B. Bhaskar, PSPB’s Advani, Dhwaj Haria, Dhruv Sitwala, Alok Kumar, Brijesh Damani and Jagtiani all seen in action in the first two sessions that began at 10 am and 12 noon. Majority of them had an excellent start scoring 3-0 or 3-1 wins, and Alok Kumar was conspicuous with his custom made billiard glasses.

After a 3-1 win against Delhi’s Amit Sharma, the 48-year-old Alok Kumar said: “My record must be unique. I played my first nationals in 1987 and I have not missed a single nationals since then. First I took part in the junior nationals and from 1988 onwards, I have been playing the seniors. I think in one particular year there were two nationals and so this has to be my 32nd nationals in a row. I think I was also responsible for the introduction of a nationals for the sub-juniors; they had no competition and then we also needed players to compete with Pankaj.”

The top two players from 16 groups qualify for the 32-card knockout that will be set to five games and 150 points. Tamil Nadu’s promising junior S. Shrikrishna won his first league match against Nikhil Ghadge.

Some results:

Group A: Sourav Kothari (PSPB) bt Sonam Gurung (Megh) 3-0 (101 (61)-13, 100 (94) - 17, 100 (68) - 0);

Group B: Siddharth Parikh (Rlys) bt Ajinkya Agnihotri (Har) 3-0 (101-15, 101-07, 102-34);

Group C: B Bhaskar (Knt) bt Ketan Chawla (MP) 3-0 (100-64, 100-21, 101-52);

Group E: Pankaj Advani (PSPB) bt Anupam Jha (Bihar) 3-0 (100-39, 101-3, 101-0);

Group H: Dhruv Sitwala (PSPB) bt Mumtaz Ali (Jhk) 3-0 (100-60, 100-0, 100-0);

Group J: Alok Kumar (PSPB) bt Amit Sharma (Delhi) 3-1 (100-41, 68-100, 100-14, 100-43); S. Shrikrishna (TN) bt Nikhil Ghadge (Rlys) 3-0 (100-0, 100 (52) - 64 (54), 102 (68) - 45);

Group K: Brijiesh Damani (PSBP) bt Siddharth Patni (MP) 3-0 (101-55, 102-19, 100-38);

Group L: S Simhachalan (Rlys) bt Hemant Kumar (Rlys) 3-0 (100-82, 100-75, 100-77);

Group M: Rohan Jambusaria (MH) bt Aditya Agarwal (Rlys) 3-2 (100-93, 8-100, 100-67, 91-101, 101-66); K Venkatesham (Rlys) bt Tushar Shresta (Bihar) 3-0 (100-16, 102-42, 101-33);

Group N: D Raj Kumar (Knt) bt Shahbaaz Adil Khan (PSPB) 3-0 (101-86, 100-88, 100-18);

Group P: Rishabh Thakkar (Mah) bt V. Subramanian (Mah) 3-2: 88 (55) - 100, 56 (45) - 101 (70*); 100 (40*) - 57, 102-67, 100-61).