Shyam Jagtiani: 'It has to be your day to win'

Shyam Jagtiani has decided to return home without taking part in the national snooker event because a technician from a Bangalore company is travelling to Kolkata to fit a billiards table at his place.

Shyam Jagtiani

At 65-year-old, Shyam Jagtiani was the senior most player at the 84th National Billiards and Snooker Championship in Pune.   -  Sushanta Patronobish

Shyam Jagtiani is getting a table fitted at home in Kolkata in order to coach those interested in the cue sport of billiards and snooker. On Sunday, he lost to Devendra Joshi in the round of 32 in the National Billiards & Snooker Championship and he has decided to return home without taking part in the snooker event because a technician from a Bangalore company is travelling to Kolkata to fit the table.

The 65-year-old was the senior most player at the 84th nationals here. He had made his national championship debut at Madras in 1972, but the former Eastern Railway employee has skipped a few. After watching Pankaj Advani, Sourav Kothari, Rupesh Shah, Brijesh Damani and a few more in action in the quarterfinals he said: "As long as I am fit, I hope to come back for the nationals. I have been approached a number of times by the federation to apply for the position of coach, but I did not do it because once I become coach, I will not be allowed to play."

Several aspects of the sport has changed in the last 45 years and Jagtiani says: "There is a tremendous change in the standard of the game, table and ball set. There has been a number of innovations and this has resulted in improvement in all aspects of the game.

Previously we used to have the thick cloth called 'No. 10' which would allow a roll of three or three and half lengths of the table at the most. Today it’s five and half to six rolls. This means the table is fast. The balls have become more lively with new chemicals used. A total evolution has taken place. It’s like a change from village to the stadium. My state-mate, Ratan Bader, had made a highest break of 51 in snooker and got the prize in Madras. Today, if someone makes 136, he is not sure of getting the highest break prize."

Jagtiani recalled the 5-pot rule from the spot in billiards and how the good players maximised it and also how the new format has made it tough even for the best players.

"We saw players like Satish Mohan, Michael Ferreira make 500-plus breaks. Even Arvind Savur made a 558 break at the Cochin nationals. The standard of billiards was on the higher side, but today it has become better.

"With the introduction of 100-up and 150-up format, it has become a dicey event for the top ranked players. It has become anybody’s game. It has to be his day for the best player or he has to play very well to win. More than the skill and other other things, it’s got to be 'your day' in the 100 or 150-up format. In the 100-up format, one mistake can make you lose the game, or one good roll of the ball can make you win the game. The skills aspect has declined, players are more keen to get the shot done.

"Very few players have the correct basics like stance, cueing, and not moving etc. I don’t know if I should be saying this, but I am one of the examples for firm basics. There cannot be any jerks of the limbs. We have this "locking system" in us that restricts your movements. And, because of this fact, I am still playing and performing well," said Jagtiani.

Jagtiani, who won the 1989 senior national snooker title, is fascinated by the game of Carombole.

"There is 8 and 9-ball poll and there is another game called Carombole. Nobody is taking about it and I don’t think India has more than one or two tables for Carombole. It’s a very interesting game. If you watch Carombole played by professionals, you will not feel like watching any other sport. It works like magic. What they can do on the table is fantastic."