Pankaj Advani’s decision to turn professional was instinctive and the seven-time world champion’s transition from amateur to the competitive world of pro snooker had more to do with listening to his inner self rather than silencing his critics.
“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. As a sportsperson, you always look to challenge yourself and this is the biggest challenge that I have undertaken. I just wanted to prove myself that I can play at the highest level. That’s why I took up the challenge.
“To be able to try out both billiards and snooker professionally at the highest level, it’s just a high for me and I am really excited because it’s so contrasting,” Advani told PTI during an interview.
As opportunity knocked on his door, Advani said he did not want to live with the regret of not playing in the competitive world of snooker in Europe.
“Sometimes, you just feel that there is a time and place for everything in life. This year, I was thinking about it (turning pro), I was contemplating the move and one fine morning when I woke up, I felt that I am going to England this year.
“I know that if I don’t play now, probably I’ll never get a chance to play and even if I get one, it would be too late.
So, I did not want to live with the regret of not trying out when I had the opportunity,” Advani said.
Following his stellar performance at the Asian Snooker Championships in Doha, where he finished runner-up to compatriot Aditya Mehta, Advani decided to turn pro in May.
Since Mehta earned a direct two-year card (2012-13 and 2013-14) for professional snooker by winning the Asian Championships, Advani received the wild card quota allotted to India. Both will get to compete between 20 and 25 tournaments over a period of 10 months.
India’s numero uno cueist has qualified for the ’International Championship’ (Venue Stages), the world’s richest pro-snooker tournament with USD 950,000 as prize money, in only his first quarter of participation.
China, where the tournament will take place in October, is a favourite hunting ground for Advani as he picked his first amateur IBSF world snooker title there in 2003 and was also crowned Asian Games billiards gold medallist in November, 2010.
“I came through four rounds of qualification to make the cut for the top league of the pro circuit with a win over Michael Holt. It’s just my fourth ranking event in the pro-circuit and cueists are known to spend years attempting to qualify for a tournament like will be hosted in China.
“To do it in my first attempt, it’s something which I am very happy about and proud of,” said the reigning national billiards champion.
Advani, who had once refused to turn pro because of his meteoric rise in billiards, said he was nervous and excited before heading to Sheffield.
“It was both....in England, there is a culture for snooker. It becomes major part of their life. When you go to England to play professionally, it just becomes part of your daily routine. When you have competition like that from top players, you need to produce very high quality of snooker.
“The atmosphere is very challenging, very exciting. There are good players out there, the conditions are top class. It can’t get better than this. It’s massive,” he added.
Advani hoped to stay in the top-70 at the end of the first season.
“I just saw the ranking list a couple of days ago. I was 66. We started at 99 and then climbed up the ladder. In the first year, no one can enter the top-60 because the point system is such. So, it’s only in the next year from June that we can start playing in the top-64,” he said.