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Exclusive: Cue sports deserve to be part of Olympics, feels Pankaj Advani

Published at :February 6, 2022 at 10:02 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ESPN/The Statesman)

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The legendary cueist spoke at length about several important topics from his career.

Pankaj Advani is arguably the biggest name when it comes to cue sports in India. The country adores him because of his incredible performances at multiple international tournaments. He has won 24 world titles and is a two-time Asian Games gold medalist.

In an exclusive conversation with Khel Now, Advani talked about his early life experiences and how he developed an interest in the sport. He also presented his opinions on a range of topics from the state of cue sports in India to the upcoming stars in it and more.

Here are excerpts:

State of cue sports in India

While talking about the state of cue sports, Pankaj Advani mentions that India has a lot of talent. He believes that more people need to play cue sports and that each sport needs equal focus.

“I wish that people get to experience this wonderful sport because we don’t have a dearth of talent in our country. Whether it is cue sports or any other, I believe that India can become a global superpower in sport. This can happen only if we are able to recognize and develop infrastructure across different disciplines of sports, each and every sport. Let’s not put down one at the expense of another. I believe India, in the next 20 years, can join the likes of the USA and China," said the cueist.

On development of cue sports

Speaking on whether the popularity of cue sports has increased, Advani said, “When I started playing the game in the late 90s, of course, I used to look up to people like Geeth Sethi, Michael Ferreira, my coach and Yasin Merchant, so many top players. At that time, the game was being shown on TV a lot more. I understand that now the sport has evolved with the advent of short-format leagues. Taking a cue from the Premier League and IPL, kabaddi and even volleyball and table tennis have their leagues now. That is the need of the hour now.”

“The Federation needs to look at organizing a league that could be televised. There, players can make decent money and take care of their livelihood. Showcasing to the public how beautiful it is because it’s visually very appealing. It just needs to be packaged in the right way. Even cue sports have that potential (to succeed like other games),” he further added in this context.

Cue sports being part of Olympics

Pankaj Advani with one of his Asian Games gold medals (Courtesy: News18)

Pankaj Advani is a strong believer that cue sports deserve a place at the Olympics. “We were part of the Asian Games up until 2010 and I know that feeling of the gold medal and your national flag go up and the national anthem being played, it's a proud moment for all Indians.

"I wish to experience that again personally. But, in terms of the bigger picture, yes this is a truly global sport picked by many countries and a lot of youngsters also play it. It is up to the international body and the Olympic committees to take a call and feel that the sport deserves to be there,” the legendary cueist opined.

Not a rich man’s game

Pankaj Advani holds the opinion that snooker and billiards are not only meant for the financially well-off. Citing the accessibility of the sport, he said, “When I started playing this game, I did not have to invest too much money like you have to make in games like badminton, golf and even cricket. In our sports, it’s just the cue stick and everything else is provided for. So many snooker parlours are coming up, clubs are offering membership based on your talent in a sport.”

“Things are becoming easier, although there are remote areas where we need to improve the infrastructure and have more academies. This is an area where the federation, the state and central government could look at. I think we need to look beyond (performing well at the Olympics), if we want to become a nation with a true sporting culture,” he further explains. 

The aim is to continue

Pankaj Advani clarifies that he would still want to play as long as possible and along the way, attract more people to pick up the sport. He says, “I would still like to play as much as I can. Representing India is a great honour and to win medals for the country. I have set big standards for myself and as long as I can keep winning for the country and get more youngsters in the wonderful sport of ours.” 

“The sport has become more attacking, the nature of the sport is more unpredictable now and we see more youngsters coming in. The national championships alone attract over a thousand participants and that number is increasing steadily,” the cueist says in regard to the evolution of the sport in modern times.

Importance of social media

“Social media is a great tool of information and to get information from apps like Koo, Twitter and Instagram. To connect with your fans and see what people are talking about.

"It is interesting that you can get to learn about so many different people, current affairs and politics. We get to read about the achievements of our athletes and it's important to be aware through the social media platforms,” Pankaj Advani opined.

Promising youngsters

Pankaj Advani feels S Srikrishna is one of the cue sports talents to watch out for (Courtesy: India Today)

Pankaj Advani also talked about the upcoming Indian players who have a lot of potential in cue sports. “There are so many good youngsters who are shaping up beautifully. S Shrikrishna from Tamil Nadu just won the Nationals in the senior category. There is Kreishh (Gurbaxani), Sparsh (Pherwani), Laxman (Rawat), they’re all youngsters around their early and mid-20s.

"You will get to hear more about them in the near future. Even the women are doing very well. We have already had a few medalists in the women’s category,” concludes Pankaj Advani

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