India is set to get a taste of top-notch international snooker action with the World Professional Billairds and Snooker Association deciding to hold its first ever ranking tournament in India in October this year. The current and former World Champions are expected to participate, while the Indian charge will be led by former World billiards champion Pankaj Advani.
Advani, who has won eight world titles in billiards, made his professional snooker debut last year and is currently ranked 73rd in the discipline. Advani became the first Indian to make a semi-final appearance in an International snooker event when he reached the last four of the Hunter Classic championship last year. A day before the World Games kick off at Cali, Columbia, Advani talks with The Indian Express about his recent performances, chances at the Indian Open, form in the snooker professional circuit and the importance of playing in the rankings tournaments. Excepts :
How was the tour championship tournament in Holland?
You lost in the fifth round but what were the positives from it ?
I had a decent outing in Rotterdam. It was a PTC event (Players Tour Championship) which is in short format (best of 7) and is anybody's game. I am happy with how I played and could've gone further had it not been for a couple of close misses. It's my second year on the professional tour and I am learning a lot of new things. We live and learn.
The top 64 will qualify for the next season. How do you see your chances?
First we need to learn from the world snooker body on how the top 64 will be determined, whether it is according to points or prize money (a recent development). According to the latter, I'm already in the 64, but in terms of points I'm only a few spots away. Either way, there is a need to be consistent. I never plan too far ahead. I have a hectic season on now and that's what I'm going to focus on.
You have been training in Sheffiled. How has the experience and training been?
I train with fellow professionals in Sheffield and it has helped me to stay focussed ahead of the evens in the professional snooker season. The season has more than eight tournaments this year and I am eager to qualify and win. Besides this, I have spent a lot of time with my coach Arvind Savur and whenever I'm in Bangalore, I work with him.
What are your views on the new format where every player takes part in the first round in any tournament in the pro season? What changes will it bring about?
It has its pros and cons. It gives everyone the opportunity to possibly face a top ranked player, which is a great experience. However, it also means that qualifying becomes a lot more challenging. The idea is to make each and every player earn their spot in the main stages of the tournament. They're trying to bring about fairness into the structure. To me personally, I'm just interested in playing. It really doesn't matter who I face.
With players like Ronnie Sullivan and Steve Davis expected to play in the rating event in India, do you think the tournament can spur snooker at home?
If Ronnie has confirmed then it will be a treat for the Indian spectators. Steve Davis too is a huge force in snooker. It's extremely exciting to have our first event here in India. Great work by the federation to bring it here. We've produced some phenomenal results in billiards in terms of both tournaments and performances. It's time snooker gets its due in India. Playing in India will have its own positives. I've in fact played the biggest tournaments (world championships), the memorable twin world titles in billiards in 2008 at home. One of the biggest moments of my career occurred in front of a home crowd. I enjoy the support back home and I definitely look forward to it.
Speaking of the World Games, how do you see this event?
It's an opportunity for the sport to be showcased to increase the chances of it being back in the Asian Games and hopefully at some point entering the Olympics too. The format will see ten professional players in the 16-man draw and it will be close. I look forward to it as it is my first time in the event and in the Netherlands too.
After Columbia, you will play the qualifiers for the Shanghai Open. How tough it will be?
Every professional event is challenging from the word go. It's a hectic tour with rolling rankings for two years. So one cannot be casual in approach. Every tournament and qualifier is important and I hope to do well. All are in it to qualify and as a major event the players will be gearing up to perform well in it. I'm feeling good both mentally and physically and hope to play to my potential.