Baize baron in the making
StBlazeySnooker | On 28, Nov 2012
Shree Advani exclusively talks to us about the life of up and coming Cue star Pankaj Advani
My curious 10-year old brother wanted to put to rest the mystery about this new hobby I got hooked on to. I offered to take him along to witness this amazing sport. Little did I know that this would become Pankaj’s routine too, not to mention, the start of a new and interesting chapter in the encyclopedia of cue sports.
A summer evening in 1995, after my day at school, I was rushing to go pot some balls at the local snooker club with my classmates – a new passion we discovered recently. My curious 10-year old brother (I’m 7 years older than him) innocently asked me where I’ve been going everyday around the same time the last couple of weeks. I told him I went to play snooker.
Intrigued and clueless, he wanted to put the mystery to rest about this new hobby I got hooked on to. I offered to take him along to witness this amazing sport. Little did I know that visiting ‘Top Gun’ as a keen observer would become Pankaj’s daily routine too, not to mention, the start of a new and interesting chapter in the encyclopedia of cue sports.
He enjoyed watching us using the cue as a wand that magically made the colourful world made up of snooker balls disappear gracefully into pockets, the process bringing about immense joy to the executor. He was fascinated by the elegant swagger around the table by the player who prepared for his next shot, especially after scoring.
But Pankaj had something else going on in his mind. He couldn’t take it anymore. He waited too long. He accompanied the big boys for many days and it was time he tried his hand at this pulsating enigma. He wanted to feel the rush he witnessed us experience on the inviting baize.
After showing him the basic technique – bridge, stance, aim and strike positions, Pankaj was ready to go. He attempted his maiden shot. It vanished into a corner pocket with zero jaw contact. He got a clean first pot. Then as they say, the rest is history.
Cut back to today, Pankaj Advani, the 8-time world champion, is the proud owner of 40 major titles – 8 world (7 billiards and 1 snooker), 6 Asian (5 billiards and 1 snooker team event), 2 Asian Games Gold medals, 1 Australian Open and 23 National. Mind you, these are just the winning titles/gold medals.
Today he is a household name in our country of 1.2 billion. “Punks” is the youngest 8-time world champion in any sport in India. It was, however, his first of many titles, though not a major event, that sent warning signs out to the world about the arrival of a child prodigy in 1997. It was a handicap snooker championship (only his second tournament) wherein he defeated some of the top names in the state of Karnataka to meet none other than the person who introduced him to this very sport, yours truly.
Newspapers called it a “family affair” as the Advani brothers were going to compete for their first shot at a title – the Sampath Handicap Snooker Tournament that was held annually in Bangalore. We both knew it was a championship of little significance in the larger scheme of the sport, but this was our debut into competitive snooker and we both were a step away from our first winner’s trophy.
Pankaj, on that day, displayed that he was made for the big stage. He thrived under pressure and knew how to handle a final. It was bittersweet for me to see my little brother pot away to glory while I remained a mere spectator paying the occasional visit to the table with diminishing confidence.
“Newspapers called it a “family affair” as the Advani brothers were going to compete for their first shot at a title – the Sampath Handicap Snooker Tournament that was held annually in Bangalore. We both knew it was a championship of little significance in the larger scheme of the sport, but this was our debut into competitive snooker and we both were a step away from our first winner’s trophy.”.
The wonderboy’s innate ability to play the game made me realize the difference between talent and hard work. While I spent hours at the table each day in practice, Pankaj would manage to barely squeeze in less than 2 hours a day, due to a heavy school workload. Yet, he produced some incredible snooker.
As I watched him inch closer to the finish line, I began believing that this boy was different, that this player had something. I didn’t know what it was at the time. I still am on the quest of fully understanding his exceptional mind but as a professional I can see that he has a massive capacity to perform outside his standard operation zone when truly tested.
He has the uncanny power to outplay his opponent when the going gets tough. He has a strong Emotional Quotient and a high level of self-belief. These attributes have seen him conquer several world and other major championships, leading to the rise and establishment of a rare cueist who can compete at the highest level in not one, but two sports.
Article courtesy of the Dr. Shree Advani, Sport & Performance Psychologist and proud brother.
Images Courtesy of: Dr. Shree Advani