Two city cueists are set to compete in the World Pro championship qualifiers in England
For Lucky Vatnani and Khizar Raoof, it will be a huge opportunity to keep a date with history when they compete in the prestigious World Pro Championship qualifiers next month in England.
“I am excited about the format as it is long and the biggest test - best of 19 frames - which I have never played,” says Vatnani. Ranked in the top eight of Indian cue sports, the 26-year-old Vatnani is optimistic of reaching the Mecca of Snooker — The Crucible Theatre — by winning three rounds in the demanding qualifiers.
“I am planning to play in the Q-School in May in Sheffield to get back into the tour and then hopefully have a shot during the next season in the Pro-Tour in 2013 as well,” says Vatnani, who is grateful to his sponsors Karvy Group for their financial support.
Unlike last year, when visa problems short-circuited his dreams, this Hyderabadi is now in a better frame of mind. “I have been going to the United Kingdom for the last five years and it has been a hard battle to be away from family members for long gaps and yet remain positive. The biggest hurdle is the financial aspect as we end up spending £20,000 (Rs. 16 lakhs) for one season,” Vatnani says.
India No. 1 Aditya Mehta is not only a great friend of mine as we share the apartment but also a great motivator. At the Star Snooker Academy he helped me all along as he is also on the Pro Tour with me. He made sure that instead of feeling low about missing out on the events due to visa issues, I look at the brighter side,” reveals Vatnani.
That Vatnani means business is evident by his third round appearance in the prestigious Welsh Open including a win over Sam Cragie before losing to six-times world champion Steve Davis 3-4.
“That match against Davis was an unforgettable experience. It gave me the confidence that I can take on anyone, irrespective of the eventual result,” he recalls.
What is the big change he sees in his game?
“Well now I am able to get frame winning breaks in one visit, even in the UK I have made a few centuries and a lot of 80+ breaks which helps seal the frame which is the real pro standard. Once I I start doing this consistently, the results should be good,” says a confident Vatnani.
For his part, Khizar Raoof, a doctor by profession, feels that having played in the last edition, he knows what exactly to expect and how to handle the pressure. “It is a huge challenge definitely,” he insists.
Not surprisingly, the biggest incentive – even if they reach the semi-final of the three events which are part of the World Pro School they will be eligible to compete in the more lucrative world professional league — should inspire them enough to come up with special performances.
Will these two cueists be spot on?
Only time will tell.