It takes a certain kind of talent to saunter across from one sport to the other and win World titles. And Pankaj Advani has that kind of special talent.
One might argue that on the face of it, billiards and snooker are pretty similar. They are played on the green baize and your weapon of choice is a cue stick. But in terms of technique and mental set-up, they couldn’t be any more different which is why Advani’s feat really needs to be applauded.
Over the years, we’ve heard of so many stories of sportsmen who gave up one form of the game to excel in the other. The reason being that it’s not easy to juggle two different sports with very different requirements. But that’s exactly what Advani has decided to do.
So even as the nation celebrates his seventh billiards World title, you have to remember that Advani spent a majority of the year playing snooker in England.
Barely months into his maiden year on the Professional Snooker Tour, Pankaj Advani created history by entering the semifinals of the Paul Hunter Classic. He is the only Indian to make it to the final four of a tournament on the professional snooker circuit. And he also managed to beat former World No 1 John Higgins as well as legendary cueist Steve Davis.
The 27-year-old Advani has shown great promise of becoming a force to reckon with on the Professional snooker circuit as well. Indeed, he is the only Asian to play both — billiards and snooker professionally.
So how difficult is it to make the switch?
“The rules are very different, the technique is difficult to master and making the switch isn’t easy but it is a challenge and that is what I thrive on,” Advani told Firstpost. “It’s the little things, for example, in billiards there needs to be more follow through. And sometimes you can forget them.”
“The important thing is to challenge yourself. You may be winning or not winning but to develop as a player and as a pro, you have to constantly challenge yourself.”
Advani took quite a gamble by choosing to skip the International Championship on the professional snooker tour in China in favour of the World Billiards. Indeed, it was a decision that received some criticism as well but he’s glad he managed to pull it off.
“I took a tough decision earlier this year to play both billiards and snooker at the highest level, and I am glad that I have been able to maintain top form in both. This victory, like every other shall be treasured yet has its own special meaning given the unique challenges I have faced this year. This win is a testament that if you follow your heart, nothing’s impossible,” said Advani in a statement.
The really tough bit about the snooker tour is that for six months in the year, you have to be in the United Kingdom. The world’s top 99 players are there and it’s a straight knockout. You lose, you’re out and then you move on to the next tournament.
“I have never played so many tournaments in such a short period. You have to keep winning and you have to move on if you don’t. It took me around four months to qualify for the International Championship.
Advani’s last World title was in 2009. In between, he won the gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games and the Asian billiards titles (2010, 2012). However, his lack of World titles led many to question his game.
But now, he seems to be back to his best and ready to rule two different sports. It’s a challenge but that’s what Advani was seeking in the first place.