Pankaj Advani: Hang in there till the very last minute
Pankaj Arjan Advani, an Indian billiards and snooker player, won seven World Titles and is considered to be the one of the best billiards players in India.
This cueist who won his first world championship at the age of 18 set a world record in 2005 for winning both timed and points formats of billiards.
A vegetarian and teetotaller, Pankaj is widely admired for his calm and intense focus while competing.
Congrats on turning pro. How does it feel to play on the professional tour?
Obviously, it's a big decision. But there's a time and place for everything in life and I felt this was the right time to turn pro.
I am going to be in England a lot, now that I am playing on the snooker pro tour, and I am also participating in the billiards world championships. It's going to be a long season, with lots of travelling, and I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead.
You won your first title at the age of 12. Ever missed being a regular boy in your early teens?
Yes I did! I missed enjoying being a regular student and college-goer, but I guess the time I invested in honing my skills in the game has paid huge dividends. Billiards has given me identity.
What kind of a student were you in school?
Bright (by my own standards)! In spite of training and balancing sports and education, I have maintained high scores throughout.
What pressures do you experience when playing?
I feel that when you reach a particular level in any sport you are expected to maintain that level or even better that. There will be a lot of good days and there will be some not-so-good days; it's about managing all kinds of situations and hanging in there till the very last minute that matters.
Who all supported you during this journey?
My school -- Frank Anthony Public School and Jain College. Mr Browne, principal of FAPS gave me a lot of encouragement when I was a nobody then and that's when you need the support most. Mr Chenraj Jain from the Jain Group of Institutions was also very supportive.
Also my family and coach Arvind Savur who imparted so much knowledge about the game without which I would not have reached so far.
Your brother also played for six years. What was his contribution to your success?
Shree (Advani) has a PhD in sports psychology. He was the one who not only introduced me to the sport, but also took care of my coaching where mental fitness is concerned. He taught me to handle pressure, deal with stress and anxiety. He continues to train me and he's a great sibling to have.
Your take on billiards in India?
It's a very competitive sport and has given India a lot of world and Asian championship titles. But more efforts need to go into making the game popular.
Contrary to what people think, it's not an expensive sport. It is about how it is packaged.
Image: Pankaj Advani
Photographs: Rediff Archives