Shrikrishna’s path to cue sports glory

Billiards wasn't the first sport Shrikrishna was put into, and dabbled in. His parents prompted him to play tennis when he was only five years old, and so he did, until he was nine.

S. Shrikrishna in action at the IBSF World Billiards Championship 2016 in Bengaluru.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Cueist Shrikrishna's story belongs to this template: an athlete's family colluding to support and help realise his/her dream. This is what his family has notably done: His father Suryanarayanan quit a well-paying job to coach him, his mother Gayathri - a former State-level snooker player herself - helped stabilise the family when this decision was made. She's the most discerning, her husband concedes, when it comes to picking faults in their son's craft. So, fed with this extra, warm, and padded, support, these are what the 17-year old has best achieved so far: a horde of State and National titles, and quarter-finalist at the most recent World men's billiards championship.

Yet, this wasn't the first sport he was put into, and dabbled in. His parents prompted him to play tennis when he was only five years old, and so he did, until he was nine.

"I was too lazy. I didn't want to run a lot, which, in tennis, I had to. Here, in cue sports, you play in an air-conditioned room. And, you just do this in loop: sit, come on, and play," he says on how he, as a kid, saw the sport he excels in an easy indulgence.

But, later, he realised it wasn't as easy as it appeared to be on the surface. "Shortly into the sport, I found out that fitness is important here as well. It's a nervy game. You have to control your nerves. It's not easy. You need good physical and mental stamina to be a good player."

It was an act of boyish gall, the first time he wielded a cue stick.

"One day, after my tennis session, I happened to see my parents playing billiards at the Mylapore club. I saw a game which was very simple. 'You just have to hit with a stick, and the ball goes in,' I thought.

“I wanted to play. But, I wasn't allowed to, since the rule prescribed that kids in the u-12 age group cannot play there. Fortunately, when the person in-charge playfully let me try after I persisted, I potted four or five balls. After that, the criteria to play was changed to my height. That is, whoever was the same height as I was, was allowed to play. The table requires a certain height for one to bend over and play."

His other coach Nadeem Ahmed, he says, better mines this ambitious streak in him. "He keeps on challenging me to play at a level far higher for my age."

What's his one big life ambition though? If any. "I just want to keep outperforming myself," he says.

In the immediate future, he's looking forward to a tournament in Chandigarh in April, and one in China later.