Pankaj Advani has another 20 years of top-flight billiards in him: Geet Sethi

Pankaj Advani poses with his two World Billiards titles
Bangalore, Oct 30: Pankaj Advani, when still in teens and yet to make his mark, had nursed a wish that his name becomes synonymous with cue sport, much like his idol Geet Sethi's. Just over a decade later, the Bangalorean has more than fulfilled that wish.

Full list of Pankaj's titles, awards

Advani, now 29, won a double in the IBSF World Billiards championship in Leeds this week, clinching titles in both points and timed formats for the third time after 2005 and 2008.

Advani has thus far won 11 individual World titles besides the World team billiards crown, two Asian Games (2006, 2010) gold medals in billiards, five Asian billiards titles besides 24 National championships in both junior and senior categories.

Yet, for all his achievements, Advani is still "a work in progress" and that he has another 20 years of top-flight billiards in him, feels Sethi who himself won nine World titles before retiring from the sport last year and taking up golf that he plays to 18 handicap.

"Yes, Pankaj is very much a work in progress and it is a frightening thought for his opponents! I feel that a billiards player reaches his peak between 30 to 35 years of age and hence I believe that we are still to see the best of Pankaj," the 53-year old Sethi told IANS Thursday.

"I started billiards when I was 13 and I think Pankaj was nine or 10 when he took to the sport. So, he has been playing the game for nearly 20 years now and he can continue to play until he is 45 or 50, provided he is able to sustain the hunger and desire.

"As you grow older, the blinkers start coming off and you begin to see the world outside of sport. Marriage and family tend to dilute the intensity. But at the moment, I would say that his best is still to come," he said.

Sethi said he was anything but surprised that Advani won a double in Leeds, given the form he was in and also the opposition he faced.

"I was not surprised at all that Pankaj won a double in Leeds. He was in top form, having won a couple of titles earlier this year. So, obviously, his confidence was on a high going into the World championship," Sethi said.

Advani, who won his first tournament when only 11, has developed and evolved into a top quality player in the past decade and his greatest asset is his mind, opined Sethi who also predicted that the Bangalorean will win at least 20-plus World titles.

"Pankaj is a winner. In terms of his game, he is the most mature 18-year old billiards player I have ever seen. You know, this sport is all about nuances and subtleties and Pankaj has a sharp mind at the table and it is phenomenal. He simply crushes the opponent.

"Looking at the current scenario, there are only two or three players who can challenge Pankaj. (Mike) Russell (multiple World champion) is one of them if he is allowed to play, but he has a couple of years in him. Then there is (David) Causier, but he too is ageing and so is (Peter) Gilchrist.

"Then there is (Sourav) Kothari who has the skills and game to challenge Pankaj, but needs to back them up with a strong mind.

"So, I would say that Pankaj will win at least 20 to 25 World titles by 2020. But like I said, a lot will depend on his ability to sustain the desire after playing for so many years and achieving so much," said Sethi.


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