India’s top two cueists, Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani, feel that an academy to nurture talented Indian snooker players is the need of the hour.

Having benefitted from their association with the Star Snooker Academy in Sheffield, Mehta and Advani — both of who have earned entry into the inaugural Indian Open Snooker by winning qualifying matches in the UK — are of the opinion that something like that could be of immense help to Indian players.

“Until I went to Sheffield, I was a good snooker player. Training there for so many years and practicing with professionals, including world-class players and champions, sharpened my game and helped me settle down in a tournament match,” said Mehta, at an event connected with the £300,000 Indian Open to be played in New Delhi from October 14 to 18.

“I am sure Pankaj too would have felt the same. But it costs a lot just to sharpen your game. I was lucky in a way. There are plenty of gifted players in India, but they don’t have the financial resources. I would strongly recommend establishing a finishing school in India,” said Mehta, who has reaped the benefits of a five-year association with the Academy.

Advani, an eight-time world billiards champion, said: “Professional snooker has gone global, though much of it is played in England. I did not want to stay there for so long. The lifestyle, the weather, the food…everything is different. One has to adjust to the conditions and perform, which is very, very difficult.”

Former snooker ace Yasin Merchant said it is ludicrously expensive for overseas players to train and play professional snooker in the UK.

He said India has a large talent pool looking to hone their skills at an academy.

All three cueists said that the quality of the table and cloth used in world-class tournament has a bearing on the performance.

“A table used in international tournaments cost Rs.9 lakh, and the baize (which lasts about six months) costs Rs.40,000. We cannot afford this in India. We play on tables that cost Rs.3 lakh, and a thicker cloth,” said Derek Sippy, a senior administrator.

Talking of the extremely competitive nature of professional snooker, Advani said: “In India, one good shot brings value; in professional snooker 20 good shots bring value. That’s the big difference.”

“It has been one-and-a-half years for me now as a professional, and both of us (he and Mehta) are up there. But only the top sixteen win majority of the tournaments.

“I was anxious and determined to make it to (the Indian Open in) Delhi. I am glad both won the qualifying matches. We are assured of £2,000. The winner takes £50,000,’’ said Advani.

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