The psychological comfort of playing at home will be a big advantage for the six Indian cueists who are set to prove their mettle in the Asian snooker championship, starting at the Yeshwant Club here on Saturday.
The home players will be aware of the fact that the championship is being held in India after a long gap and will be keen to make the most of it.
For the host, which has fielded a formidable team, former World champion Pankaj Advani will lead the campaign. I.H. Manudev, Kamal Chawla, Lucky Vatnani, Aditya Mehta and Manan Chandra are the other Indians in the fray. Chandra has been drafted in as a last-minute replacement for the seasoned Yasin Merchant, who pulled out due to personal reasons.
Chandra agreed that it was a god-sent opportunity for him. “Definitely, it is a great opportunity for me. I came to know about it only yesterday (Thursday). I have not really done well at the Asian level. So, playing at home, I hope I can do well,” said the 30-year-old from Delhi.
The field of 44, divided into eight groups, promises some interesting contests as the best cueists from 19 countries are ready for the challenge in the eight-day-long championship that offers Rs 3.5 lakh as prize money.
At the outset, it would be difficult to say who qualifies as the favourite since players from China, Pakistan, Thailand and India have very good chances. There are no less than 10 title contenders in this competition.
Other than Advani, who will surely be determined to improve his record at the Asian level, Guangzhou Asian Games bronze medallist Aditya Mehta will be a key player for the home side.
Mehta had come second best in the Asian championship in 2008, the year he had turned professional, and this time he would approach the event with a steely resolve.
Sajjad in top form
A strong contender from Pakistan will be Muhammad Sajjad, the Asian No. 2. Sajjad has been in top form after Pakistan's bilateral series with Iran followed by an intense training camp in Islamabad. Chinese Jin Long, the winner in 2008, will be among the front-runners for the top honour.
The fans can also look forward to some great action from young Iranian Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who has the reputation of amassing big breaks at will, and the experienced Mohammad Saleh, a former Pakistani ace, representing Afghanistan.
For the organising committee, it will be a challenging task to generate interest in the continental championship. “Of course, it is a challenge. But we have a regular fan following for cue sports in Indore. It is one of the leading centres for cue sports in the country.
“We expect a good response,” said organising secretary Vishvesh Puranik.
Keywords: Asian snooker championship