Snooker legend White is favourite for CCI crown

Mumbai, Jan 18 (PTI) English snooker legend Jimmy Whiteleads a four-strong list of foreign players at the Rs 5-lakhprize money Cricket Club of India Open International Snookertournament.

The 48-year-old six-time world runner-up is back in thecountry to win laurels in the cue sport after more than threedecades. His last visit to play in India was successful whenhe clinched the national snooker crown in 1980 at Kolkata as aspecial invitee, beating Arvind Savur in the final.

White, a left-handed player and among the few who havecompiled snooker''s highest possible break of 147 in its worldchampionship history, said today that the experience ofplaying with top international players would be beneficial toyoung Indian cuests playing in the tournament.

"Playing alongside top international players would helpthe Indian youngsters," said White who is highly favoured topocket the top prize of Rs 1.5 lakh on the final day of thetournament, January 23.

"Next year we would try and get some more (interntional)players to make the tournament better," said the Surrey-basedWhite who has won 23 titles in his three-decade-oldprofessional career.

Also in the fray along with White are three otherEnglish cueists - 36-year-old Stephen Lee, 2009 IBSF WorldSnooker champion and ex-Arsenal junior footballer AlfredBurden who is also the practising partner of White andsix-time world women''s champion Reanne Evans who now plays onthe men''s pro circuit. More PTI SSR DK AT

White said the game of snooker, after a slight dip in its popularity after the 1990s, is back on track again.

"Snooker is again in good shape in the UK. The WorldMasters final (first-ever all-Asian match between China''sGuangzhou Asian Games silver medalist Ding Junhui and HongKong''s gold medalist Marco Fu) last Sunday (at Wembley) waswatched on TV by ten million people," he said.

The list of Indian aspirants is led by Aditya Mehta,currently trying to break into the top-64 of the pro circuit,billiards ace Geet Sethi and former Asian champion YasinMerchant.

Mehta comes into the event after winning the singlesbronze in snooker in the November Asian Games in Guangzhou andthe team silver with Merchant and Brajesh Damani as teammates.

Sethi described White as "the authentic genius" ofsnooker.

"He can still recreate the magic which no one elsecan, but not with the same consistency as he did in the 1980sand 1990s," he said.

The former world billirds champion expressed hope thatlike China, India can also have two players in the WorldMasters final down the line - may be in 5-10 years.

"Our players have the talent and the technique but lackexposure to top level snooker in UK which is the Mecca ofsnooker. We have to be more consistent which will come onlywith constant experience at that level," he said.

The players have been divided into four pools of sixeach and the top four in each group would advance to theknock out pre quarters.

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