Pankaj Advani, the modern day maestro of Indian Billiards has been in prime form ever since he started playing the game at junior level.
When you talk about sports that are not included in the Olympics, where India could have been assured of a medal, billiards is one of the first names that comes to your mind. The reason is very simple- Pankaj Advani.
Pankaj Advani is unarguably the finest billiards player India ever produced with a total of 16 World Championships (12 billiards, 4 snooker). He has won the World, Asian and National billiards championships simultaneously in three different years i.e. 2005, 2008 and 2012.
His exploits in billiards earned him a number of accolades including the Arjuna Award (2004), the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2006) and the Padma Shri (2009).
Let’s take a look at the life and career of one of the finest sportsmen India ever had.
Early Life of Pankaj Advani
Born in Pune, Advani spent his early years at Pune before moving to Bangalore. He was introduced to snooker by his brother Shree Advani who was an eminent Sports & Performance psychologist at the time. At the age of 10, former national snooker champion Arvind Savur discovered him and began to train him. Advani set several records at the state and national levels.
Advani bagged his maiden title at the age of 12 and began to earn many state and national honors in the years to come. He won his first National Juniors Billiards championship in 2000 and went on to win it in 2001 and 2003.
In 2003, he also won the All India Junior Snooker Championship which made him the youngest champion in the competition’s history.
Senior Billiards Career
He made his international competitive debut at the Asian Billiards Championship in 2002 where he was the runner-up.
At the 2005 IBSF World Billiards Championships at Qawra, he created history by winning both the time and point formats, a feat called the “grand double”. He repeated the same feat in 2008 at Bangalore. Advani is the youngest person to have won all world titles a record 8 times.
He is the only person to have won all national, regional and world titles in a single season. He did this in 2005 by winning the junior and senior national tournaments, the Asian Billiards Championships and the World Championships (time and point format).
In 2009, Advani won the WPBSA (World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) title at Leeds. That very year, he also won the IBSF World Billiards title and the IBSF World Snooker Championships. As a result, he became the first person to win all three titles in the same year. He repeated the same feat in 2012.
Advani won his 5th Asian Billiards Championship at Goa in 2012, becoming the first player to do so. Later that year, he won his seventh World Billiards Championship title, 8th overall.
Senior Snooker Career
Advani made his international competitive snooker debut at the IBSF Snooker World Championships in Jiangnem, China and won the tournament. This was his first world title and he became the youngest winner of the tournament.
Advani turned a snooker professional in 2012 and the 2012-13 season was his first as a professional snooker player. During the 2013 Welsh Open, Advani became the first Indian to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event. He ended the season ranked 74th in the world.
In the 2013-14 season, a snooker ranking tournament was played at Delhi. Advani reached the quarter-finals where he was beaten by compatriot Aditya Mehta. Mehta became the first Indian to reach the semi-finals of a ranking tournament. He reached the round of 32 at the Word Open and as a result, ended the season ranked 56th.
Advani missed most of the 2014-15 season in order to focus on his billiards career and spend more time with his family. The only ranking event he played that season was the 2015 Indian Open where he lost to Rhys Clark. He did win the IBSF Snooker Championship that year.
Pankaj Advani created history in 2016 by winning the Asian 6-Red Snooker title. In the process, he became the first player to win both the world and Asian titles. He reached the second round of the Indian Open. He followed this by reaching the semi-finals of the Six-Red World Championships where he lost to eventual champion Ding Jinhui.
This year, Advani is in contention for the Indian Sportsperson of the year Award and he does have a lot of competition in SSP Chawrasia, Srikanth Kidambi, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that Pankaj Advani is one of India’s finest sportsperson.