Pankaj Advani's 12th World title at just 29 puts to rest any debate on who is India's most successful cueist, writes Yasin Merchant
Pankaj Advani is on a roll! And has been so since he first wielded his cue to wrest the National title from yours truly way back in 2003. He was merely eighteen then; and was being billed as the brightest thing to hit Indian cue-sports in a long long time. He proved the pundits right, and kept amassing titles with such alarming speed, that one began to wonder whether winning itself was going out of fashion!
A dozen World titles — and the guy is not even thirty. His 12th World title on the 29th of October, 2014, (11th was just a week ago) has put to rest any debate as to who has been India's most successful cueist ever. His contemporaries are nowhere close to him, his predecessors have been left way behind, and those to follow have only one problem between them and success — a rampaging Pankaj, who is showing no signs of relenting.
The doubting Thomas's may still rear their ugly heads, and point out that Mike Russell or Geet Sethi may have halted his march, but with no offence to these two legends, Pankaj would have still done what he did.
A waltz for Advani
Be it Peter Gilchrist, David Causier, or the Indian battalion, none could hold a candle to Pankaj, in either the shorter format or the longer one, as he literally waltzed his way to both crowns. Save one match where Causier appeared to have come within striking distance, it was his event all the way.
The final itself was lopsided, and without sounding too cocky, or for that matter too patriotic, for Mr Robert Hall, Pankaj's ill-fated opponent in the final, it was a lesson in pure doggedness, attitude, and stamina. Our man from India showed no mercy, as he ground the challenger to dust to lift his 12th World Billiards title. His dominance is complete now, and the tag of being the top billiards player in the world, suits him best.
The first thing that strikes you about Pankaj, when he walks into the billiards hall, is the ease with which he carries his success; humility and composure being part and parcel of his demeanour. Even with all the success in the world, he is still 'one of the guys', a trait not so obvious in many other champions that I have been fortunate/unfortunate to know.
On the table, he is one tough customer, an opponent you would never want to cross swords with. Aggressive, crafty, and ruthless would be some adjectives to describe his battle strategy, but off the table, he is still a lot of fun to be with, cackling away at all the 'man' jokes, shared by our very own illustrious champions of yesteryears.
No pretense of being aloof, just because he is numero uno in the world, no snooty comments to keep his distance, and certainly no behavioral failings, just to emphasise his stature — he is just plain 'Punks' to all his friends and compatriots. Pankaj has always been like that, right from the time he accompanied us to the earlier editions of the Asian Games as a junior, where he was fun loving and grounded, but a keen student, ever willing to ask that one extra question to his seniors.
At 29, he is still young for the game of billiards and snooker, and his desire to achieve is certainly not going to leave him very soon, so unless another Pankaj Advani is born to stop him, I see no one throwing a spanner in his plans of world supremacy for the next decade.
The writer is a former Asian snooker champion.