A winner of 23 world titles in billiards and snooker, ace cueist Pankaj Advani says he continues to play more because it takes him to another world where theres nothing to worry about than just to collect accolades.
"I love playing billiards and snooker. It transports me to another world where every other thought or worry ceases to exist. I'd love to win more but the love and joy of playing and competing keeps me going," Advani told IANS in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The biggest name in cue sports in India, Advani, 35, is on his longest break from the table due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had brought the world to a standstill since March. The International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) has announced that there would be no international events this year.
"This year has been very different for many reasons. This is the longest period I've been at home. Have been practising on and off. There will be no international tournaments this year. I will start preparing for them at the end of this year," said Advani.
"In June, I picked up the cue after 70 days. Probably the longest I've been away from the game. After a month, I stopped after the second lockdown was announced. Since the last month I've been training again. It feels great to be back on the table, but I guess the intensity will increase closer to the championships," he felt.
Apart from 14 world billiards titles, three world snooker titles, four professional billiards titles and an Asian title to his name, Advani has also won the Grand Slam in both billiards and snooker.
In 2019, he became the only player to win the Asian and World Championships in all formats (six reds and 15 reds) of snooker.
Terming IBSF's decision to cancel all international events this year unfortunate, Advani said it is probably the right decision in the circumstances.
"While it is unfortunate, it probably is the right decision keeping in mind the risks involved. Looking forward to better times and more action next year. We all will be rusty when competitions resume but I'm not concerned about momentum. All the players will face the same challenges," he said.
Advani also urged governing bodies to televise the sport in order to attract aspiring cueists and sports enthusiasts.
"The priority for our governing bodies should be to televise the sport to attract aspiring cueists and sports enthusiasts. I do feel we must learn to appreciate all sports and celebrate the sporting achievements of our champions with more excitement and enthusiasm. It is heading that way gradually," he said, when asked if he feels his sport robs him of the attention he deserves.
Advani's two-decade long journey will be part of the Web Series Finish Line that is being hosted by squash ace Saurav Ghosal. It will be telecast this Friday.
Along with Abhinav Bindra and Viswanathan Anand, Advani will be the latest legend to talk about what goes behind the making of great feats.
"During these trying times, it is refreshing to reminisce and reflect on the country's major sporting highs. It is a very inspirational show and I'm certain the sports fans/enthusiasts and aspirants will be motivated to achieve great heights," he said.
"It is an interesting concept which brings to light some of the most defining moments of Indian Sports. I'm honoured to have been placed in this elite list," Advani said. "It wasn't easy to win the IBSF World Billiards and Snooker Championships back-to-back in 2017. The episode is mainly about the mindset with which I competed and achieved a unique double in cue sport."