Now, cue sport gets a league of its own

The first-ever Cue Slam — Indian Cue Masters League, to be held from August 19 to 25 this year in Ahmedabad, was formally launched in the presence of Pankaj Advani, Vidya Pillai and the Billiards Federation of India officials on Tuesday.

Pankaj Advani and Vidya Pillai at the launch of Cue Slam--Indian Cue Masters League in Hyderabad on Tuesday.   -  Nagara Gopal

The first-ever Cue Slam — Indian Cue Masters League, to be held from August 19 to 25 this year in Ahmedabad, was formally launched in the presence of 16-time world champion Pankaj Advani, Asian women’s snooker bronze medallist Vidya Pillai and the Billiards Federation of India officials here on Tuesday.

The League, with total prize money of Rs. 50 lakhs, will feature five teams — Gujarat Kings, Chennai Strikers, Hyderabad Hustlers, Bengaluru Buddies and Delhi Dons — with some of the big names from abroad including Andrew Pigget, Darren Morgan, Kelly Fisher taking part in it. There will be six women players in all in the League to be telecast live on Sony ESPN network.

“The salient features of the League are it will have a shot clock wherein the player has to play his stroke within 15 seconds, 10-minute span for each frame,” says Mr. Prasad Mangipudi, Executive Director of Sportzlive which will organise the League with technical support of the BSFI.

“The entire concept is to make cue sports more spectator-friendly and for this reason, the fans will have the opportunity even to cheer up their players during the games unlike in traditional format where pin drop silence is mandatory during the matches,” he explained.

Pankaj Advani, who is the Icon for Chennai Strikers, admitted that the new concept demands the players to have a different kind of training and also each player to adapt quickly to this innovative idea.

“We have to change with the changing times as it is happening in other sports where Leagues with lots of innovations are being run. Everyone wants results quickly, upsets. This League offers fast-paced action and it is equally exciting for all the players too,” he said.

“Who knows the international body might well change the rules in the future to try out this concept and may be, if it doesn’t find the desired support, revert to the original traditional format,” Pankaj said.

“Well, this League may not be the right idea for a new-comer into the sport. But again, to lure more youngsters into it, this is important and a step in the right direction,” he said.

For her part, Vidya, who also will be playing for Chennai, feels it is a wonderful opportunity for every cueist and more so for the women players. “I am optimistic of at some point of time having a separate league itself for women on these lines. It is so exciting,” she said.

The teams:

Gujarat Kings: Andrew Pigget (Icon), Daria Sirotina, Alok Kumar, Sourav Kothari, Brijesh Damani. Coach: Ashok Shandilya.

Chennai Strikers: Pankaj Advani (Icon), Vidya Pillai, Dharminder Lilly, Faisal Khan, E. Pandurangaiah. Coach: G. Kishore Khurana.

Hyderabad Hustlers: Amir Sarkhosh (Icon), Amee Kamani,Kamal Chawla, Lucky Vatnani, Anuj Uppal. Coach: Manoj Kothari.

Bengaluru Buddies: Darren Morgan (Icon), Anastasia Nechaeva, Sundeep Gulati, Varun Madan, Laxman Rawat. Coach: Derek Sippy.

Delhi Dons: Kelly Fisher (Icon), Luara Evans, Pushpender Singh, Manan Chandra, Malkeet Singh. Coach: Malkeet Singh. Coach: Tanuj Kohli.