At 31, Pankaj Advani has been a world beater 16 times over. His World Billiards title win at home last week was his 16th World championship; 12th in billiards to add to his four wins in world snooker. Despite his spectacular success, cue sports continues to search for greater appeal in India. Pankaj is a rare success in both billiards and snooker, both games, he says demand completely different skill sets. In an interview to India Today, Pankaj puts his success in perspective. Excerpts.. Q. Congratulations Pankaj. Your 16th World title! Put these numbers in perspective for us.. A. I never dreamt I would win so much. I am only 31 and it feels like I have played this game all my life. It feels great to win for India and put India on the mat by winning year after year. This is my 16th world title and it’s sweet sixteenth because it comes in 2016. Q. You rule the billiards world. Yet this one was a tough final to win? A. Every final has its share of pressures and when you are against a seasoned campaigner like Peter Gilchrist it’s never easy. I was not at my best game. That’s the beauty of sport. Sometimes you don’t have to play so well, just manage your game. It’s ok to struggle once in a while. You can wait for mistakes from your opponent and strike. It was a lot tougher than the 6-3 score line suggests. I played really well in the tournament before the final.advertisementQ. With all these titles, what kind of phase is your career in? A. I am in a lovely space. Yes, there is lot of pressure People say if Pankaj does not win gold it’s not a good tournament for him. But listen I am human and there will be bad days. One has to concentrate on getting my consistency up. To get physically stronger and add more dimensions to be mentally stronger. I want to continue to achieve for the country. I have always believed the journey is as important as the destination. Q. Not everyone understands cue sports in India and you know that better than anyone else. For the layman the impression is because cueists don’t retire in their thirties, they can go on forever. But there must be challenges as you grow older? A. Without a doubt. When I was 18, I was fearless. My eyes were a lot sharper and I could play a carefree brand of snooker. It’s more measured and methodical now. At the same time I don’t want to change my game that has got me so far. It’s a mixture of your free flowing rhythm and the experience you have accumulated over the years. I am glad I have been able to add all these elements to my game and reinvent myself. Q. You dabble between snooker and billiards. Is it as difficult as it is for a cricketer to switch between T20 to Test cricket? A. It’s a lot tougher than that. Of course we play on the same table. But billiards and snooker are totally different sports. If you look at the number of cueists playing, there is no person who is playing both and I am glad I can challenge that and break that myth that you cannot play two sports. (Pankaj Advani wins World Billiards Championships title)It’s never easy because the scoring pattern, the technique, the approach is so different from the other. Snooker is one game where you need to be tactical, hit and run. Need to be precise. You need to be alert in billiards and you require great of deal of concentration, rhythm and endurance. I know there are times when I may not have been able to adjust to the other sport because I have played one sport and have hardly have had time to prepare. Just like now where I have played world billiards and will now play snooker in Mumbai; both completely different games and formats. But that’s the challenge that keeps me going. Q. Is there gamesmanship in cue sports as well? A. In every sport there is a lot of stuff going on. There are people who play slow to put you off. If a player who likes to play fast, there are those who will take as much time as possible and slow it down. Because there is no rule that says a shot has to be played in a certain time. You can take three minutes for a shot and bore the opponent. Sometimes players stand in your line of the shot. So there are tactics in this game as well. But more or less we are gentleman and play in the spirit and try to win fair and square. advertisementQ. Finally what have all these titles done to you? Do you get mobbed? A. I hope nobody robs them of me. These titles will stay with me forever. It’s nice to be recognized like Prime Minister Modiji wished me on social media the other day. It’s very heartening and motivates you to go further and get better. I am glad I am getting so much adulation and respect the fans for their support.
Billiards to Snooker switch more difficult than T20 to Test cricket: Pankaj Advani to India Today