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He remains severely critical of India’s sporting scene but that has not deterred Pankaj Advani from churning out world titles consistently and this year too, he ruled the green baize by winning the world billiards title in the short format to take his overall tally to 16.
Advani has won a staggering eight world titles in the last three years and he continues to go about his business unassumingly. It is as if he is expected to lap up the trophies every season.
Probably that was the reason there was little noise earlier this month when he outdid familiar foe and multiple time world champion Peter Gilchrist in the world billiards final (150-up format) at home for his only major title of the year.
Last year, he had completed a hat-trick of titles and 2014 was even better with four glittering crowns. Amid the focus on his achievements at the world level, his first ever Asian 6-red snooker title in May should not be ignored.
However, 2016 was not all about him. Dhruv Sitwala defended his Asian billiards crown beating compatriot Bhaskar Balachandra in the final.
Balachandra had accounted for none other than Advani earlier in the competition. Forty-two year old Dharminder Lilly also made the nation proud by the lifting the world snooker trophy in the masters category (over 40) in what was his maiden attempt.
Not discounting the achievement of other Indians, Advani easily was the stand-out performer
What is most striking about him in all these years is his ability to seamlessly juggle between billiards and snooker.
Less than a week after he secured a bronze in the world snooker championships in Doha, Advani was back in his hometown Bengaluru in the first week of December to defend the world billiards crown.
It is no surprise that juggling between the two cue sports remains his biggest challenge.
The transition is surely not easy as he experienced it in Bengaluru. But the fighter that he is, the master of the green baize quickly recovered from a quarterfinal loss in the world billiards (long format) to last the distance in the shorter version of the game.
Ask him about the juggling job, Advani says even he doesn’t have a proper answer to it.
“It is never easy to switch (from billiards to snooker or vice versa), especially when you go into the tournament as the defending champion. I was disappointed to lose in the semis of world snooker in Doha (in last week of November) and then to regroup, to have your motivation level back up there for world billiards days later, I don’t think anyone has an answer to this question.
“And I can say it with some authority, nobody else plays billiards and snooker regularly at the highest level. I can only say it is one of the toughest things to do,” Advani said shortly after winning the billiards title in Bengaluru.
Another admirable thing about him is that his commitment towards his game doesn’t waver one bit even though he thinks that the sport in general is treated unequally in India.
He doesn’t do the usual comparison with cricket, his complaint is that sports like his, which are not part of Olympics, get a raw deal from the administrators.
To a certain extent, he is right when he says the attention is only on multi-sporting event like Olympics, Commonwealth and Asian Games and not on a discipline like cue sport in which the world championships are held every year.
Despite little hope from the system, Advani continues to bring laurels to the country year after year. One expects a lot more from the 31-year-old, who hopes to remain at his peak at least for another couple of seasons.
“I am enjoying my game. They normally say snooker and billiards players are at their peak between 28 and 32 and I am 31 now. A few best years are still ahead of me. Having said that, it is never easy to win a major title the more you win, the more are the expectations,” he summed up.