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Chopra on cue

In India even the lack of proper infrastructure fails to dampen the spirit of talented youngsters. Jalandhar’s Vivek Chopra belongs to this category.

Written by Shailendra Awasthi | Mumbai |
February 19, 2009 1:32:03 am

Junior snooker ace from Jalandhar shines despite dearth of tables

In India even the lack of proper infrastructure fails to dampen the spirit of talented youngsters. Jalandhar’s Vivek Chopra belongs to this category. This 20-year-old has progressed to become Indian junior No 2 in snooker despite the fact that there is not a single international standard snooker table in the entire city.

“I have to go to a resort which is some 15 kilometres away from the city owned by one of the leading cueists in the country,Dharminder Lilly since there is not a single proper snooker table to practice in the city,” says Chopra who is now into the third round of the ongoing snooker tournament at the Cricket Club Of India.

Though only Lilly has an international level snooker table in and around Jalandhar,the 35-year-old is never into coaching. Chopra is one of few youngsters who Lilly allows to play at his resort and tries to finetune their game as and when he has time. “He is the man who taught me how to play at a serious competitive level,” says Chopra,who,like many other cueists,got hooked to the game playing pool at a local parlous.

“Actually my elder brother Varun used to play at local parlours and would tell us stories of his success. One day he took me to a parlour and explained to me the basics of the game but then on he always told me not to come to parlours saying it’s a place which is not good for youngsters because too many people smoke there,” informed Chopra. “Basically he didn’t want me to get into betting which was very much prevalent there,” says the last year student of B.Com at the Khalsa College.

But once Chopra had tasted blood,there was no stopping him. “I would bunk my ninth class periods and go to a local parlour with school-mates,” says Chopra who once won a snooker event at a local parlour and got Rs 3100 as first prize. “That prompted me to take part in the Punjab State championships which happened at Ludhiana in November 2006,” informed Chopra.

At his first-ever state championship,Chopra not only pocketed the snooker title in the under-21 category,he also caught the attention of Lilly who was there to witness the event. “There I told him that I don’t get a proper table to practice. Impressed by my performance he allowed me to use his table at his resort,” informed Chopra.

At his first-ever nationals at Bangalore in December 2006,Chopra was unfortunate to run into the eventual champion Risheb Pandya in the first round itself. “Though I fought bravely,Pandya managed to snatch a win in the final frame,” says Chopra. Since only one event in cue sports happens in Punjab – the state championships,Chopra had to wait for November 2007 to have a go at the title. He again succeeded in pocketing the title in under-21 snooker and thereby retained his hold on the crown.

The next Nationals at Hyderabad in December 2007 saw Chopra bowing out in the first round again. “There again I was playing well but lost the focus in the final frame,” says Chopra.

Last year Chopra had contrasting results in state and the national championships,While he failed to score a hat-trick of titles in the under-21 category at the state championships,he went on to finish second in the Indore nationals in the same category. This year,Chopra came to Mumbai on his very first visit to the city to play in the Islam Gymkhana Western Indian Snooker where he lived up to his reputation of being India No 2 to reach the last four stage.

“Actually Lilly Sir changed my game,” says Chopra. “He taught me what was required to play at the competition level. He fine-tuned my game,showed me how to play under pressure and how to be offensive and defensive at various stages of the game,” says Chopra.

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