Bhopal: Billiards and snooker player and 24-time world champion in his league Pankaj Advani has batted for sportspersons to oversee the administrative work of the sports bodies. Advani, who is in the city to take part in the 88th Billiards and Snooker Championship, made the statement in a tête-à-tête with Free Press on Tuesday. Excerpts:
FP: You started off with snooker and came into billiards soon after. Which one do you prefer between the two?
Advani: I wanted to redefine the word 'specialisation' and do something nobody had done before. So, I got into both the cuesports. It's impossible for me to pinpoint one out of the two. I love snooker. But I'm just one per cent more in love with billiards now, although the answer may change when you ask me the next (laughs).
FP: Do you think sportspersons should take over the administrative work of sports?
Advani: I believe only a sportsperson can know and understand the requirements of other sportspersons. Not the players currently in the game, but the ex-champions or ex-players should oversee the administration to avoid bias and to ease the decision-making. Non-retired players may be biased towards themselves or their peers.
FP: When did you start playing snooker and who's your inspiration?
Advani: I started at the age of 10. A game like cuesport needs a lot of concentration and consistency. You can get the techniques only with experience. I'm thankful I was trained by Arvind Savur, an ultimate champion of the game. His experience moulded me well. He inspires me every day till this date.
FP: How did you handle the break from the game during the lockdown?
Advani: As a sportsperson, it definitely took a toll. I kept waiting to get back to the tournaments, or, for that matter, to the practice while the lockdown was getting extended. Not only physically, but it also took a toll on my mental health. Nevertheless, my practice and my family kept me sane.
FP: Do you see the need for cuesport in Olympics?
Advani: These are the decisions that the federation makes. Still, tell me which is better-a Bollywood star giving one hit in four years, or one hit every year? A game not being in Olympics is no reason to berate it. We have annual championships. But, yes, sports is all about equality. The government should invest in non-Olympics sports, too, as there are many young players who fail to excel due to a lack of opportunities.
FP: How do you handle a defeat from budding players who aspire to be you someday?
Advani: It is tough (laughs). Many a time, these new players have several tricks up their sleeves which I mayn't know or recall. They play as they have nothing to lose when they're up against me. So, they go in with all they have. But, at the end of the day, it's a game and has to have a winner and a loser and I heartily accept that.
FP: Against popular belief, cuesports demand a fit body. What's your fitness regime?
Advani: Yes, people think the game is only about concentration. But a fit body holds as much importance. I have a game-specific training regime. I train for my upper back, lower back and core. A strong core is required for bending during the game. I was out of the game in 2018 for six months due to an upper back injury. It was tough coming back.
FP: Who do you think is a tough competition for you in internationally?
Advani: Pakistani players are coming out real good these days. Also, currently, I don't think I'm in my rhythm. I recently got married and Kamal (Chawala) here says I'm too much into the marriage and little out of the game!