Pankaj Advani won the World Billiards Championship in Bengaluru on Monday. He beat Peter Gilchrist of Singapore six games to three in an enticing final. This was his 11th Billiards World title and 16th overall! One might wonder then, how exactly is he unsung? For starters, billiards and snooker aren’t seen as mainstream sports, more so in India. The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association submitted a bid in 2015 for its inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Until that materializes, cueists across the world would be bereft of deserved recognition.
Pankaj Arjan Advani was born on 24 July 1985 in Pune, Maharashtra. He began his snooker training under the tutelage of former national Snooker champion Arvind Savur at the age of 10. He won his first national junior Billiards title in 2000, repeating the feat in 2001 and 2003. In 2003, he became the youngest winner of the National Snooker Championship.
On his maiden competitive appearance on the international scene, Advani finished as a finalist at the Asian Billiards Championship 2002 in Bangalore. He has since gone on to win the title a record five times. The ace-cueist is also a two-time gold medal winner in English Billiards singles at the Asian Games. The victories came at Doha in 2006 and at Guangzhou four years later.
World Championship charm
Although his highest world ranking has been just 56, Pankaj Advani has had a very rewarding run at the World Championships. He won his first IBSF World Snooker Championship held at Jiangmen, China in 2003 as an amateur. Advani then became the first person ever to win the IBSF World Billiards Championship in both formats, timed and points, in 2005 at Qawra, Malta. He repeated the feat in 2008 on home soil in Bangalore. His first world title win as a professional came in 2009 at Leeds in England. The win at the 2014 IBSF World 6-Red Snooker Championship made him the world record holder for most world titles in cue sports. He also became the first player ever to win world tournaments in both, the 15-red standard and 6-red formats. Advani also holds the Indian record for most world championships in any sport.
In a country where team sports are far more popular, Pankaj Advani has managed to etch his name in Indian sports history. This in itself is a noteworthy achievement. He has followed in the footsteps of legends like Geet Sethi to create a niche for billiards in India. He won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2006, the youngest to do so. A decade after that, Advani still continues to perform at the highest level. We thank the Prince of India on his glorious achievement.