Not many sportspersons from India have been world champions in their respective sports. Pankaj Advani is an exception. The first ever player to have completed a grand double in billiards, Pankaj is considered to be the best billiards player in India after the legendary Geet Sethi.
Born in Pune, India, he showed his talent right from the age of 10. The 4’ 6” boy held the cue and to everyone’s surprise, pocketed the ball on the first shot. From then on, there was no looking back for Pankaj Advani. And this doesn’t mean that he compromised on his studies. He was a very bright student and remained so throughout his school life.
Pankaj’s first title was the B.S. Sampath Memorial Handicap Tournament in the year 1997, in which he defeated his own brother. He won the state junior title in 1998. In 2000, at the age 15 years, he clinched the Indian Junior Billiards Championship. In 2003, he won the Indian Snooker Championship and repeated the feat for the next three years. In 2003 and 2005, he became the youngest Indian ever to have won the Senior National Billiards Championship and Senior National Snooker Championship respectively.
Internationally, he made his debut in 2002 at the Asian Billiards Championship held in Bangalore. In 2003, at the age of 18 years, he won the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) World Snooker Championship 2003 in China.
The golden era
The year 2005 can be considered as his Golden Period. He won the Asian Snooker Championship in India. Then he won the World Billiards Championship held in Malta, both Points and Time formats. It was a world record. He became the first person to win both World Billiards titles in the same year. That year, he claimed five titles in total, Junior and Senior nationals in addition to the ones mentioned above.
Since then, he has won all kinds of titles and championships in Billiards and Snooker.
For these achievements, he has been conferred various awards by the Indian Government and Non-government organisations. He was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2004, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, which happens to be the highest award given to sportspersons in India, in 2006, and various others, including awards from the Karnataka Government.
Credit goes to him
It is mostly because of Advani’s achievements that an almost unheard of sport, Billiards, has become so popular in the country. He commanded people’s attention in this cricket crazy nation, and he got it because he deserved it.
Hoping that more brilliant players will emerge from India soon……….