Five budding cueists are in the city to sharpen the skills on the green baize
They are different. Yes,this bunch from Uttar Pradesh begs to differ from usual stereotyped youngsters who land up in this city of dreams,seeking employment or looking for a break in Bollywood. In fact,five of them are here to polish up their skills on the green baize.
Cueists from UP are usually considered to be the whipping boys on the circuit. We want to change that image, says Arvind Mishra,one of the group who are currently taking part in the ongoing Western India junior snooker tournament being held at the Islam Gymkhana.
When I had taken part in my first-ever nationals held at Indore last November,I was very disappointed to see how we were looked down upon by competitors from the other states, informed the 17-year-old state-level player from Lucknow,who fell in love with the game at a pool parlour near his residence.
His other colleagues Nilesh Nagpal,Shobhit Pandey,Vivek Tiwari and Arjun Mahajan also had the same route to the game in the absence of a proper setup for sports in their state. We have an Uttar Pradesh Billiards and Snooker Association (UPBSA),which hardly has any infrastructure in the state that can help initiate children into the game. In fact,if it had not been for these parlours,we wouldnt have known that there is something called snooker,a cue sport that is played at the national level, says 20-year-old Nagpal.
The UPBSA organises just one state-level championship for which the qualifiers are held in various districts. Beyond that,there is not a single event organised in the state,which boasts of having just one top nationally ranked player,the late Satish Mohan,who had won national championship in early 1930s,albeit representing Bangalore. We have few local tournaments to participate,which carry prize money of a few thousand rupees, points out 17-year-old Pandey,who hails from Muradabad. For that too,we have to practice on pool tables in parlours as there is no facility provided by the state association, he says.
However,despite all these shortcomings,all these youngsters managed to qualify for Uttar Pradesh State Championships and climbed the ladder up to the nationals and the recent formation of the Lucknow Cue Sports Association (LCSA) has come as a major boost to the budding stars.
One architect Tanuj Kohli had formed the LCSA three months ago and the body has started providing us with new tables and better practicing facilities at a local club called Unique Snooker Joint to practice on, states 18-year-old Tiwari. The LCSA has also started giving travelling allowances to players who go out to play in Open and other big events across the country.
Incidentally,Kohli also organises an event called Jafferys and Kohlis Meet,an invitational snooker tournament in Lucknow. The top four ranked players from the state are invited for the event,which also invites four junior players to participate. In this event,eight local qualifiers from Lucknow are also given the opportunity to participate and this increases the number of participants to 16.
In a quest to improve the standard of their game,these youngsters are keen on joining the snooker coaching camp to be organized by two-time Asian champion Yasin Merchant at the Islam Gymkhana from February 18. We are lucky to have the chance of learning the game from somebody like Yasin sir, says Mishra. He is the only professional player from India to have made his mark in the professional league in the England,which is considered the ultimate challenge in snooker, adds Mishra.
We would like to learn his style of playing attacking snooker, admits Tiwari,while Nagpal chips in: Yes,we want to see how he manages to remain aggressive in any situation.