Amazing Pankaj Advani pockets CCI billiards title

Mumbai: Eight-time world champion Pankaj Advani (ONGC) stamped his authority yet again by pocketing the billiards crown in the Cricket Club of India (CCI) Classic Billiards and Snooker tournament here today. The Bangalore-based cueist defeated Dhruv Sitwala in the final.

Pankaj Advani
Pankaj Advani 

Advani, 27, also won the Highest Break award for the 530, which he scored against Devendra Joshi in the quarter-finals. At the halfway mark of the four-hour final, Sitwala, who was nursing a fever, was trailing 227-787 with the aid of a 95 break. Advani, on the other hand, had procured breaks of 243, 193, 98, 87 and 78. The onslaught continued after the interval when Advani resumed on a break of 22 and converted it into a double hundred.

This effort was followed by a barrage of back-to-back breaks of 96, 89 and 196 in successive visits. Sitwala, who registered a nail-biting 9-point win over Maharashtra state selection champion Arun Agrawal in the semi-final, replied with a 90 before conceding the match and title to his younger opponent. The difference was a little under a thousand points with half an hour left on the clock. In the semi-final against Rupesh Shah, Advani enjoyed a comfortable lead in the first half of the match courtesy breaks of 180 and 146.

But Shah grabbed matters into his own hands and fired in a long yet productive 278 to put the Asian Games gold medallist under pressure. The scoreline reading 492-378 in the Gujarat-based player's favour, Advani, known for thriving when the chips are down, responded strongly with splendid breaks of 297, 271 and 151 in quick succession, leaving the spectators mesmerised with his artistry and killer instinct.

Advani eventually marched into the final, winning the tie 1103-546. An elated Advani said, "The semis was a test of my mental strength and I was glad I could deliver when it mattered most. I feel bad for Dhruv who wasn't anywhere close to his best healthwise. It's the worst time (in a final) to be ill. My heart goes out to him."

Incidentally, this tournament was Advani's first experience with the newly introduced spotted balls. "This is new to me. It can affect sighting and aiming at times but my consistent performance reflects that it wasn't much of a problem," stated a jovial Advani. "I'm so pleased to be playing the 3-ball discipline of cue sports again. A fortnight ago in the ECA club in Bangalore and now here in CCI. I'm relishing every moment while with my first love (billiards)." F

Final: Pankaj Advani (ONGC) beat Dhruv Sitwala (ONGC) 1425 (98,78,193,87,243,200,96,89,196) - 447 (95, 90).

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