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Indian trio's Doha win reaffirms that India's a force to reckon with in cue-sports: Yasin Merchant

Let’s hear it once more for the three guys who did India proud by lifting India’s first Asian Snooker Team Championship title. Manan Chandra, Brijesh Damani and Alok Kumar, take a bow! For, you have once again brought glory to India with this title, and reaffirmed that we have always been, and shall continue to be, a force to reckon with in the world of cue-sports. Your victory at Doha will surely rate as one of the finest achievements in the history of Indian sports, and shall be remembered also for the manner in which the task was accomplished.

Manan Chandra, Sanjay Sawant, Brijesh Damani, Alok Kumar and (inset) Yasin Merchant
Manan Chandra (left), coach Sanjay Sawant (second from left), Brijesh Damani and Alok Kumar with their Asian Snooker Championship trophy (inset) Yasin Merchant. PIC/www.cuesportsindia.com/

Quite frankly, not many would have given a decent chance to this Indian trio to come back triumphant, what with Pakistan on fire, with Mohammad Asif (current World Snooker Champion) winning the Individual 6-red Asian event at the same venue, a week earlier, and who was part of the Pakistan team that surprisingly went down to Afghanistan in the quarter-finals of the team event. The draw also boasted of China, Thailand, UAE and Iran, all of whom are considered powerhouses in the field of snooker today.

Iran took care of UAE, who took care of Thailand, who accounted for China. Iran finally succumbed to India three nil, in what turned out to be a one-sided final. In fact, from reports that I collected, the entire knock-out draw for India was a one-sided affair, because you had one player, who was one fire, and that player goes by the name of Manan Chandra, India’s current national champion. He made the format look so ridiculously easy, with a forceful display of snooker throughout the tournament, that at times he needed to be reminded that he is playing for the country, and he should be experiencing some kind of pressure.

But such is Manan Chandra! When on song, he finds his own zone, and then the world better take cover. He was ably supported by his two teammates, who are more known for their strategic brand of snooker, than their aggression. Alok Kumar can keep playing the cat and mouse game for an entire day, entire week, or an entire year, or till end of eternity. Such is his stamina to grind down opponents, that he has been nicknamed the ‘Grinder’ on the Indian cue-sports scene.

Mind you, not that he is incapable of bringing in the heavy artillery when needed, but he has, over the years, matured enough to know when and where to play within limitations, and how to set up the final blow for his teammate. This was pretty evident in their doubles match against Saleh Mohammed of Afghanistan, better known for his slam-bang variety of play, when Saleh was kept completely in check by Alok, whereas Manan was allowed to run the steam roller at the other end. This is what doubles is all about – compromising your ego and playing for the team.

Brijesh Damani, brings with him a youthful zest to the team, and with his enthusiasm and exuberance keeps matters exciting. An able teammate, Brijesh deserves all the accolades he can get, for he has time and again proved that when it comes to team events, he is a pre-requisite. The Indoor Games gold, the Asian Games silver, and now the Asian team championship – he has been a regular at the podium. In this championship too, he kept chipping in with the odd frame or two, to keep India always within striking distance of their first Asian team title. With the kind of exposure that he keeps getting at these Asian level events, it is but a matter of time before he will be knocking out the big guys at world events. More power to him! And kudos to India for a job well done. 

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