Pankaj to lead elite field in snooker main draw

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{image-pankaj adwani_04032008.jpg}Mumbai, Mar 4: National champion Pankaj Advani will lead an elite field of cueists, who will feature in the main draw of the Shyam Shroff Memorial Open Invitation Snooker Tournament, that gets underway at the Khar Gymkhana here from tomorrow.

Apart from Advani, the main draw will include Aditya Mehta, Manan Chandra, Sourav Kothari, Alok Kumar, Yasin Merchant and Rupesh Shah, who finished in that order in the national championships, and junior national champion Shravan Mohta.The elite group of eight will be joined by four wild cards -- Devendra Joshi, Ashok Shandilya, Sarang Shroff and Rafath Habib of Railways, apart from eight qualifiers.
The qualifiers who have made it to the main draw include Mumbai's Marzdi Kalyaniwala, Lucky Vatnani of Hyderabad, Neeraj Kumar of Bihar, state junior champion Rishabh Pandya, state No 2 Hasan Badami, Nikhil Ootam, Faizal Khan and Kamal Chawla, both of Railways.

The field of 20 in the main draw, which will be held from March 4 to 9, will include four groups of five players each with the top two players in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.

The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be held on March 8 and the final next day.

The winner will receive Rs 60,000, while the runner-up will get Rs 30,000. In addition, the cash prize for the highest break is Rs 5,000.

The tournament is being held in memory of one of India's greatest exponents of cue sport who virtually died an unsung hero at a premature age of 60 plus.

The soft-spoken and affable Shyam Shroff, who was a good track and field athlete and specialised in the 100 m during his school days, was fascinated by the geometry of billiards&snooker when he visited the Park Club at Shivaji Park, Dadar in Central Mumbai.

The sport caught his imagination as he was determined to master it and challenge the likes of the legendary Wilson Jones and Michael Ferreira, both world amateur billiards champions.

Originally a billiards player, Shroff chose to make the transition to snooker as both Jones and Ferreira dominated billiards. His determination and sheer love of the game led him to a remarkable seven National titles and the rest, as they say, was history.

After shifting to Khar from Warden Road, it was Khar Gymkhana's gain as Shroff inspired a legion of cue sport aficionados, including Yasin Merchant, who went on to win an impressive two Asian snooker championship titles.

Like Arvind 'Fats' Savur, Shroff was a swift player and a delight to watch while constructing those big breaks in rapid-fire mode.

Results: Final (Qualifying Rd): Hasan Badami bt Rovin D'Souza 72-50, 34-58, 68-25, 60-27, 39-59, 58-39; Faizal Khan (Rlys) bt Varun Taneja 64-51, 59-48, 46-79, 62-25, 59-10; Nikhil Ootam bt Divya Sharma 36-74, 100-13, 26-54, 65-8, 68-52, 63-25; Kamal Chawla (Rlys) bt Chandresh Shah 71(60)-23, 69-37, 72-67, 68-1.

Group 'A': Pankaj Advani, Devendra Joshi, Shravan Mohta, Kamal Chawla, Neeraj Kumar.

Group 'B': Aditya Mehta, Rupesh Shah, Ashok Shandilya, Nikhil Ootam, Faizal Khan.

Group 'C': Manan Chandra, Yasin Merchant, Rafath Habib, Lucky Vatnani, Hasan Badami.

Group 'D': Sourav Kothari, Alok Kumar, Sarang Shroff, Rishabh Pandya, Marzdi Kalyaniwala.


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