Having won his fifth National billiards title in July, Pankaj Advani is gearing up to reclaim his world title in Carlow, Ireland, where the World Professional Billiards Championships began on Wednesday. The seven-time world champion (six titles in billiards—five amateur and one professional—and one in snooker) spoke in Bangalore earlier this week about the quarter-final loss at last year’s World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association event in Leeds, England, his fitness and the competition. Edited excerpts:
Are you all set for the world championships?
I am currently working at maintaining my fitness level, in addition to regular practice. The fact that I did well in the Nationals has helped boost my confidence, considering that the world championship is going to be played in the same point format (as opposed to a time format) that the Nationals took place in. I am ready to win my eighth world title.
On cue: Advani says he is focusing on endurance training. Photograph by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Did the national championships provide enough competition?
I am happy with my victory. I played some experienced players so, of course, it was challenging. The more you play the more you learn.
This time you don’t have an International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) World Billiards Championships title to defend.
I have been winning the IBSF from 2005, so losing it last year was a tough one to digest. When complacency sets in and you don’t understand the value of what you have, a sudden drop helps shake you up and make in you work harder. In retrospect, though I don’t like making excuses, I’ll say that last year was tough. I just had an hour’s break between the semi-final (which lasted 4 hours) and the final. It was taxing, and I lost to a great opponent in Mike Russell.
What is your fitness routine like?
In snooker and billiards, you don’t need to be extremely strong and bulked up, so endurance training is what I am looking at. You also have to be mentally relaxed. In fact, the week before a game, I don’t even speak to my parents on the phone. I just send them one text message saying I have reached and then I cut off from everyone.
Do you see the game picking up in popularity?
Yes. I now get a lot of emails from young people asking if I will coach them. Though I am yet to tread that path, I am happy that there are a lot of youngsters who are aspiring cueists.