Pankaj Advani Interview: India’s Man Of Steel


India has a glorious tradition in cue sports. The likes of Wilson Jones, Michael Ferreira, Om Agarwal and Geet Sethi have been winning World Championships for India since times immemorial. Pankaj Advani has not only kept the tradition going but has also now gone on to create his own legacy. 12 World Championships, 4 of them this year are adequate testimony to Advani’s class. Sports Rediscovered is proud to bring to you an interview with Pankaj Advani, the 12 time World Champion from India.


Pankaj Advani – Double World Champion for Billiard 2014

Congrats on winning your 12th title . How does it feel now that you have time to reflect on the 2 world titles you added to your kitty?
Thank you! Well, I haven’t had time to reflect as I have already reached Sheffield and started my snooker practice. But yes, I have been reflecting just a tad and to be honest it is yet to fully sink in. Without really celebrating it with family and friends, I haven’t experienced the magnitude of the achievement to its fullest extent. I am ecstatic though and would like to reproduce the same form in snooker this month.
We will ask about the points format first: What was your strategy for the final against Peter Gilchrist. What helped you overturn the results of the group stage?
I had to lost to Peter in the group stage very narrowly and knew very well the capacity he has to win. Therefore I was very alert from the word go. Initially he took the lead and I was on the backfoot. But by the time of the interval, I managed to draw parity at 2-2. That was good enough for me. After having a bite, some tea and a chat with Shree, I was in a much better place, taking the next 4 frames to win the title.

Have often seen , that you are able to pull up your performance during Finals . What do you do differently and how are you able to keep your composure/nerve ? What has been the role and impact of your brother and sports psychologist, Shree?

Playing in on the big stage is something I thrive on. I enjoy playing under pressure and when you are called things like ‘Man of Steel’, you know you’re doing something right.  Shree knows me for 29 years so all that I go through isn’t new to him. There are no surprises. He knows the different states of mind I could possibly be in. His inputs are invaluable to me as a mind specialist, a fellow cueist and a brother. We make a great team!
Coming to the time format, you mentioned adjustments to your game. Other than freeing the cue what else did you change ? 

In the point format, your only aim is to reach 150 points first in every frame. That makes you think differently. Your approach becomes target-oriented. Whereas in the time format, you want to make big breaks and maintain the lead over a period of time. I hit a supreme zone in the quarterfinal of the time format where I got the highest break of the tournament of 701, which was then followed up with a 575. These aren’t small breaks. In saying that, a 150-break may seem a little simpler but when that becomes your target in the point format, the pressure can easily pile on. What I changed was, like every other cueist would have, is the mindset to stay on the table for more than 150 points. You have to outlast your opponent.

 Talk us through your semi-final match. Were you worried when David Causier started his break in the last minute of the match?
I was definitely worried and had even given up because I never thought I would get another chance. He was on the table and had he remained there, it was all over. By a stroke of luck he missed and left a position to score and take a slender lead.
What was your preparation for the final against Rob Hall. Did you speak to B Bhaskar about his semi final against Rob Hall?
Yes Bhaskar and I did speak but I must say it was an impressive performance by him. 2 medals coming to Bengaluru is fantastic! Against Rob I knew I had to start well and keep scoring. I did just that.
Did the large Indian contingent have fun together ? did they get along well in the tournament considering they played each other so much ?
We share a healthy camaraderie. Off the table, we dine together and discuss our matches, even when it was against each other. We are a great unit.
In an interview you mentioned a talk with Ronnie O sullivan that led you back to India and a subsequent 4 world titles. Please elaborate on the discussion you had and its impact.
He saw me practice a few months after I started my stint in the UK. We started chatting. and he was all praise for how well I had played in my first year there. He then asked if I was truly happy doing that. That really got me thinking. I then realized that while I was happy to an extent playing snooker, there was something missing – billiards.
I always knew there was a lot to gain by playing there but I also felt incomplete without the 3-ball sport. His riveting question put things in perspective. I guess a player (especially of his calibre and experience) empathizes easily with another. I did persist with a second season of the English snooker but such a long break from billiards had to end sooner or later. I chose to withdraw my card English tour card from this season, and instead got to participate in 4 world championships this year instead. So glad I made that decision.
What is your schedule beyond the World Snooker tournament next month?
I definitely need a break. I’m currently switching to snooker only a few hours break after the intense 2 world billiards championships. There hasn’t been a chance to celebrate the ‘grand double’ victory.
How do you plan to manage snooker and billiards going forward?
Like I always have. It comes naturally and isn’t something I have to think about. I’ll wait for the calendar of events for next year and then plan accordingly.
Tell us about your coach, Arvind Savur. Has the return to India led to more coaching sessions?
Yes, he has played a major role in my success. Whatever he has taught me has made all the difference. I am highly indebted to him.
An Indian Commentator had mentioned in Sports Star that you had picked up a basic flaw due to poor coaching! Would you say 12 world titles are Not bad for someone with a basic flaw?
Nobody’s game is perfect. I focus on the positives and optimise them, that’s how I operate. I am very happy with my technique and I owe it all to Arvind Savur. No one else could’ve had this kind of impact.
Finally, what would be your message for young snooker/billiard players in India. Also should they stick to a specific sport or play both ?
Try out as much as you can. Participate in as much as possible. And wait for your calling. I kept playing both and loved doing that, hence the calling I kept getting was, “Keep going!”.
So with this Message from Pankaj Advani, we urge youngsters to participate as much as possible ..and wait for their calling ..

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