PSPB’s might will be on show at snooker nationals

The last qualifying round will be played on Friday morning and the tournament proper will start at 12 noon with last year’s runner-up Manan Chandra taking on Chandigarh’s Nitin Sharma.

K. Murali Kumar

A file picture of Manan Chandra who will be in action in the snooker Nationals.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Snooker, the glamour event of the cue sport nationals, is all set to generate fresh interest in the Manisha National Billiards & Snooker Championship at the PYC Gymkhana from Friday. The big boys of the 22 snooker balls (one white, 15 reds and six of different colours) game have had a welcome breather after the billiards event that Pankaj Advani won, defeating Sourav Kothari.

The Billiards and Snooker Association of Maharashtra (BSAM) which is the host, has arranged the draw with 86 players in 24 groups leaving gaps for 10 more players to be added from the qualifying rounds in 10 groups that has three players each.

The top 14 groups have been filled with four players each. The snooker tournament had received a record 153 entries from Maharashtra, 54 from Gujarat, 46 from Tamil Nadu, 45 from Madhya Pradesh, 44 from Karnataka, 37 from Telangana, 34 from Delhi, 11 from Andhra Pradesh, besides many from other States.

The last qualifying round will be played on Friday morning and the tournament proper will start at 12 noon with last year’s runner-up Manan Chandra taking on Chandigarh’s Nitin Sharma. As usual the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) has a strong presence in the main draw with the likes of Chandra, Advani, Alok Kumar, Dhawaj Haria, Brijesh Damani, Kothari, Rupesh Shah and Shahbaaz Adil Khan. Three among this lot, Alok Kumar, Advani and Chandra together have won 11 national snooker titles.

After winning last year’s nationals in Indore, Aditya Mehta, also of PSPB, resigned from the world professional tour in February 2016. Mehta is currently playing in the qualifying tournament of the China Open; he beat England’s Barry Hawkins 5-2 in the first round. In the absence of Mehta, the championship has been thrown wide open with a handful of known players capable of winning the title on February 2.

Apart from Chandra who is the top seed and on top of group 'A', others given the top billing in their respective groups are Delhi’s Sandeep Gulati, Anuj Uppal, Maharashtra’s Ishpreet Chadha, Rahul Sachdev, Telangana’s Lucky Vatnani, Himanshu Jain, Railways’ S. Dilip Kumar, Pushpinder Singh, Kamal Chawla, Faisal Khan, Laxman Rawat and Rafath Habib, Madhya Pradesh’s Bharat Sisodiya, Ketan Chawla, Andhra Pradesh’s I. V. Rajiv, Karnataka’s I. H. Manudev and Tamil Nadu’s J. Varunkumar.

Players look forward to get into the rhythm quickly and run up century breaks which is never easy. Among the 521 entries received for the snooker qualifying, only one player has managed to make a solitary century break. Those who were lucky to make a century break last year were Aditya Mehta (128), S. Shrikrishna (125), Sundeep Gulati (124), Manan Chandra (121) and (112), Rahul Sachdev (120) and S. Dilip Kumar (110).

The ladies billiards tournament will be played from January 27 to 29 and the snooker event from January 29 to February 2.