Snooker and billiards in Tamil Nadu is sure to get a fillip with Chennai all set to host the Nationals from July 18

Chennai will be the scene of almost a month of cue sport action as the Snooker and Billiards Nationals is all set to commence this month.

The Nationals will stretch from July 18 to August 9 and in attendance will be the top names in the country. “The who's who of Indian snooker and billiards will be here. Pankaj Advani, Geet Sethi, Yasin Merchant and Vidya Pillai,” says International snooker arbiter and deputy chief arbiter of the upcoming Nationals, R. B. Ganesh.

He continues…“Prem Prakash and Saleem will represent Tamil Nadu in billiards. Sidharth Rao is a familiar name in the snooker division. As hosts, we can nominate three players per category, one more than others.”

In the women's division, there is no such restriction. “We are very short on numbers in this front. This is something that will change. But, as of now, anybody who walks in will get a chance to compete.” The list of past winners in the women's section makes the point Ganesh hints at. It is the duo of Vidya Pillai and Neena Praveen that have traded titles for quite some time now. But it is a condition that is not exclusive to Tamil Nadu. “Meenal Thakkur and Anuja are other players who have been doing well, but not too many more.”

Money and more

Apart from the cash the winners will take home, the top eight will also get to the selection camps ahead of the World Championships. ‘Improving the profile of the sport in the state' is what Ganesh says the edition is all about.

“The number of junior players that play the sport is a sign of its health. The numbers in the category for Tamil Nadu are encouraging,” says Ganesh. He points to a few of the juniors that have prospects. “There is Peter Paul, the state junior champion. You have B. Jagadish, another talented cueist, and Jaya Krishna, who is just nine, but comfortable competing against participants several years his senior. He is a prodigy, one to watch out for in the future.”

As for the ability to financially sustain its pursuit, cue sports may still have a long way to go, but is getting there. “Karnataka, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu are centres where the sport is doing well. The State supports the sport, and some of the sponsors provide jobs. A lot of young cueists are with the Railways, for example,” says Ganesh. The forthcoming snooker nationals, Ganesh hopes, will be a quality affair that attracts both attention and sponsorship. “Ultimately, it is about producing top-class cueists and attracting sponsors. The standard of this tournament will be an indicator of that too,” he concludes.