'Pankaj Advani one of the favourites for World Snooker title'

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Bengaluru, Nov 17: Heaping praise on the Indian legacy in billiards and snooker, Australian cueist Matthew Bolton today said that the nation's poster boy of cue sports Pankaj Advani is one of the best he has seen and one of the favourites to win the IBSF World Snooker Championship.

"He has incredible mental prowess and one of the best I have ever seen ... He also is one of the favourites in the world event," Bolton told reporters at the unveiling of the Championship logo here.

Pankaj Advani with Kathy Parashis, Matthew Bolton

The Championship is scheduled between November 19-29, which ill be held at Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. Asked about his chances in the world event here, Bolton said he had a very good year back home in England and is hopeful of playing well in the world event, however he is wary of the Indian challenge.

'Incredibly strong team'

"It is incredibly strong team led by Pankaj. I had a good year back home. If I play well, and hopefully I will could go quite far in the event," he said.

Advani also has an incredible self-belief which makes him steal the show against his toughest of opponents as well, and is well supported by his brother Sree, who is a sports psychologist.

"He has incredible temperament and self-belief no matter what the situation he is in ... I know his brother is a sports psychologist ... to keep Pankaj cool under pressure. What he has achieved in snooker and billiards, - to me is impossible," he said.

Great legacy of billiards and snooker in India

Bolton said India have a great legacy of billiards and snooker. "India has a great tradition in billiards with legends like Pankaj, Geet Sethi and Michael Ferreira ... In last five years or so snooker history has started to take shape in India, obviously led by Pankaj," he said.

Though Advani and few other players are making rounds in the media, but surely there are many others who are competent to play at the international level, Bolton said. "Apart from Pankaj and other players, the rest of Indian players are little unknown, but I am sure the number of guys are very competent," he said.

Though his forte has been billiards, Bolton is hoping to improve his best performance of reaching the round-of-32 in a world snooker event. "The best performance in the world competition was in Latvia last year where I was knocked out after reaching round 32. I haven't played snooker world championship because my focus is on billiards. I hoping to do better than the round of 32," he said.

Indian team with foreign players

Replying to a query, Bolton said playing in India is a privilege, especially after he last played in 2003 world billiards championship held in Hyderabad. "I had come to Hyderabad in 2003 for the world billiards championship. So, I haven't been in India for eleven years. It is fantastic playing snooker or billiards and a great privilege," he said.

'I will look at playing pro snooker'

Asked whether he plans to play lot more snooker considering the money involved in it rather than billiards, Bolton said he would grab the opportunity if it comes his way, but the commitment towards his young family is a bit difficult proposition.

"If the opportunity came up, I will look at playing pro snooker where as you said the money is involved, but right now my family is young and it will be a bit difficult," he said. However, Bolton said he has been playing snooker for the last two years seriously and had some wonderful moments by staying atop in Australian circuit.

"In the last couple of years I have taken snooker much more seriously. I have really got some really, really good results - I have gone to the number one on Australian rankings - won the national title this year," he said.

Barrie Jones, from International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF), Capt PVK Mohan, President, Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI), MC Uthappa, President, Karnataka State Billiards Association (KSBA) and Joseph Lo - Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) - Chief Referee

Asked about the survival of billiards in coming years, Bolton thinks that it would survive, but top players should play each other all the time to promote billiards. "I do think billiards will survive. What needs to happen in world of billiards is that the top 10 to 15 players need to play more often with each other," he said.

"At the moment we have world championship with 60 or 70 players, roughly from 15 countries, and people of India can support the game. They want to see Pankaj Advani, Peter Gilchrist, himself, Mike Russel and David Causier, playing each other all the time. I think that needs to happen to promote billiards around the world," he said.

PTI

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