As a student of Matunga’s Don Bosco High School in Matunga,Aditya Agarwal’s first true calling,not surprisingly,was football. And for a while,his preference for kicking a ball over aiming a cue-stick is sure to have had the Agrawals worried about their youngest clan member drifting away from their family obsession.
Then one evening in 1998,Aditya accompanied his father,Arun,for the biggest match of his life. A clash against the indomitable Geet Sethi,the country’s preeminent billiards champion. The match was a close one,and as it went down to the wire,the youngster could hardly watch. The senior Agrawal though held his nerve. And following a couple of nerve-wracking hours,and many chewed up nails,he prevailed if only by a single point. It was the greatest triumph of his career. More importantly,it would prove to be the turning point in his young son’s life. Aditya’s inspiration to follow in the footsteps of his esteemed elders.
By 2004,when he appeared for his SSC examination,football had well and truly given way to billiards and snooker. And it was only a matter of time,before he picked up his own cue-stick and jumped headlong into the world of colourful balls and green baizes.
It was like a drug, he says. I got addicted immediately during the break and I wasted no time and started practicing hard.
Hailing from a family that boasts three well decorated cueists,Aditya is determined to at least match the achievements accumulated by his elders,if not better them. The eldest cueist in the family is his uncle Shubhash,an Arjuna Awardee and losing finalist in the 1983 ISBF World Billiards Championships. Shubhashs younger brother,the late Om,also received an Arjuna Award after he became the first Indian to win the ISBF World Billiards Championship in 1984. The youngest brother,Arun,is Adityas father and a 10-time state champion and Shiv Chhatrapati Awardee.
Given his predecessors list of accomplishments,Aditya claims that he feels a certain degree of pressure in coping up to the expectation of performing as well as his mentors in the family. I subconsciously feel a little pressure no matter how hard I try, he says,But my family does its best to make sure I never feel it,and they never compare my achievements to theirs. He particularly praises his father,who is his billiards coach,on this aspect. He always guides me and always tells me that everything will come into place if I work hard.
He further goes on to say that it was his fathers win against Sethi that continues to inspire the 24-year old to work hard and excel at the sport. Ive always wanted to play like him ever since I started playing.
There is a clear-cut distinction in Aditya’s relationship with his father once they enter the billiards’ hall. In there,it’s all about tough love,adds Central Railway-sponsored the cueist.
There is never a soft spot for me when it comes to playing, says Aditya. He gets angry whenever I make careless mistakes or when Im not putting in my best. He doesnt hesitate giving me a solid scolding whenever I deserve it,but then again,its all done to help me get better.
For snooker,Aditya serves as apprentice to coach Sanjay Sawant,a former national champion in the discipline. Aditya visits Sawants academy at least twice a week in order to train for snooker. Other than those particular days,he visits the P J Hindu Gymkhana where he practices billiards for at least five hours a day with his father.
While Aditya has been playing billiards since he first got into cue sports in 2004,he only added snooker to his repertoire seven years later. In fact,the first tournament he participated in was coincidentally the O BAgrawal Snooker Promotional Series,a tournament held in memory of his late uncle,Om. He finished the tournament as runner-up after losing in the final,yet he still holds it as a particularly memorable feat given that it was organised in honour of his uncle. However,he does now have a significant win under his belt when it comes to snooker.
Just under a fortnight ago,Aditya,a five time junior state champion in billiards,beat Ishpreet Singh Chadha,the reigning junior national champion,at the Malabar Hill Club BSAM All India Under-25 Snooker Challenge.
He claims that his confidence has increased after the win and he hopes to work on bettering his record in the senior snooker division,but for now,he has started focusing on billiards as his next challenge is the 2013 World Billiards Championships in Leeds,England. Since the tournament is in October,the HR College graduate believes that he has enough time to prepare.
Along with a dream to play in the professional circuit alongside fellow Indians Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani,the youngest of the Agrawal cueists will continue to pursue a Masters Degree in Commerce. Ive found a key interest in sports management, he says. But I first need to focus on finishing the Part-2 examinations before I can go any further.
With successful cueists for a father and two uncles,Aditya says that he was never forced to get into the sport. You may call it destiny,but Id say it has become more of a family tradition now.