“There are many pool converts taking to snooker in a big way,” said Ajeya Prabhakar, U.S. No. 2 and President of the United States Snooker Association (USSA).
Ajeya, a 40 year old computer engineer based in San Jose, California, was born in Bangalore and schooled at Baldwin's and Bishop Cottons. He looked to balance his academics with his snooker career and moved to the UK in 1991 after the World under-21 championship held in Bangalore then. “It was eventual winner Ronnie O'Sullivan's coach (John) who coaxed me to move to the UK and turn pro after seeing me finish sixth at the under-21 event. And I went with stars in my eyes…but soon realised it was a different ball game altogether,” said the father of a seven-year-old girl.
A glittering job offer in the U.S. and Ajeya shifted base and priority- for another five years. But at the first opportunity to play snooker, the unassuming Ajeya emerged U.S. National champion, in 2000, and since then has finished in the top two whenever he has took part.
“There are a lot of clubs and parlours catering to snooker and ironically unlike other places many pool players are turning to snooker in large numbers. In San Jose I conducted the World team event in 2007, and though England took the men's title the senior title was claimed by India with Geet Sethi, B.V.S. Murthy and Devender Joshi beating New Zealand for the title,” he said.
“At the school and college level there is not much enthusiasm — lack of tables and general encouragement. ..but otherwise snooker is very popular.”
The Nationals in the U.S. began some time in the mid 80's with the likes of Tom Collins, a five time National champion, leading the way.
“At 71, Collins still plays snooker regularly,” Ajeya added.
Ajeya is keen on pushing for more recognition and berths for the continent in the IBSF. “I Am here to push for at least two berths for the continent on the board of the IBSF. That will be a good start to open up the game in pockets which have adopted the sport. At the same time we need a good performance from Ahmed Ali, (the current U.S. No. 1) and me to put snooker in the forefront.
“There are a lot of immigrants from China and Thailand who play the game with tremendous interest. Also Keila Boon from Singapore has moved to the U.S. about three years ago and once he attains the norm of being in the States for five years, he can play at the Nationals and we will then have a very strong team,” he said.
“With regard to sponsors and money coming into the game there is tremendous scope to tap into the right sources…and with it will come more tournaments and events for the locals to take to the game in a bigger way,” signed off Ajeya.
Keywords: Ajeya Prabhakar