Pankaj Advani, all of 27, will go down as one of the most underrated sports Champions India has produced. In a sport that was limited to just one name pre-2000 (Geet Sethi), Advani has taken the world by storm after his first title win at the age of 12. At age 15, in 2000, he became the youngest Indian ever to win the Indian Junior Billiards Championship.
On 28th October, 2012, when the world turned its focus to a Hurricane and a F1 race, Advani quietly won his 8th World title- his 7th in Billiards after comprehensively defeating defending Champion Mike Russell 1895-1216 in the Pro World Billiards Championship. He is still the only Indian to have world titles in both Snooker and Billiards (7 and 1), and second overall behind Malta’s Paul Mifsud to do so.
This was the same boy that established a first in history in a path-breaking 2005- the year he made himself visible to a largely ignorant Indian fanbase- by winning the ‘Grand Double’, both the points and timed formats of the IBSF World Championships, before doing it once again in 2008.
In 2009, at Leeds, Advani had beaten the same opponent Russell to win the World Professional Billiards Title, and thereby became the only cueist in the history of the sport to win all 3- the IBSF Snooker and Billiard titles as well as the WPBSA title. A slight dip in form for the next 2 years meant that Advani was out of public view while other Indian sports hogged the limelight- despite being India’s first Asian Games Gold medalist in 2010.
2012 saw a return to form, with Advani claiming his 5th Asian Billiards Championship at Goa in April, tuning himself well to win back the title that he had won a record 6 times before this. He is the only active cueist to be professional at both Billiards and Snooker right now, and has made sure that the sport is carried forward brilliantly after the age of Ahmedabad-born Geet Sethi.
Advani, at a very young age, has been the worthy recipient of many awards like the Rajeev Gandhi Award (2004), The Arjuna Award and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award- India’s highest sporting honour. In a country that is obsessed with any sport that involves a team- much so that the fear of losing can be shared in 11 different ways- Advani, Kom (Boxing), Kumar (Boxing) and Anand (Chess) have remained an inspiration and shining example for many Indian youngsters determined to succeed in ‘unorthodox’ sports choices.
Here’s to a brighter and more recognized future for a generation on the verge of being forgotten and buried within the blur of blue streaking across a one-dimensional nation.