Balachandra Bhaskar attributes his return to form to golf manuals
The mechanics of sports is often interchangeable. Cricket coaches implore their wards to ‘hold the pose’ after a cover drive to complete the follow-through, similar to the arched extension of the arms after taking a shot in basketball. For billiards player Balachandra Bhaskar, a vital input arrived from golf. “In billiards, people tell us to ‘hold the cue softly’, but you cannot really quantify the term ‘softly’. I have read what Walter Lindrum (world billiards champion from the 1930s to the 1950s, and an all-time great) had to say about the grip, but it did not really give answers. Then, I read a few golf manuals where I learnt a simple and effective technique. The manual explained the term ‘softly’ like this – Hold the golf club like you hold a new tube of toothpaste; just firm enough so that the paste does not come out of the tube. I started using this idea with my cuing action, and my game became much better.”
The 41-year-old, who has five runner-up finishes to his credit (in national championships), is on a comeback trail of sorts. Despite consistent performances, his game was hampered when he could not devote too much time to the green baize. “From 2003 to 2009, I was busy with my work-life. I couldn't really practice much, so a lot of flaws cropped up. That was a really long gap; the competition went way ahead of me during this period. The other guys in the sport also got employed with companies like PSPB, which allowed them to concentrate solely on billiards.
“The catching up process started in 2009. In three years, I removed the major chinks. Then, the fine tuning started; a few glitches here and there which I had to rectify.” An increased amount of time spent on the table played its part too. “I practice for about four to five hours a day now, an improvement from the one to two hours of practice per day of before.”
Since 2009, Bhaskar’s results in the Nationals have been encouraging. He reached the semi-finals in 2010, and then grabbed a second-place finish in the last three editions. His most recent final appearance ended with a loss to Alok Kumar, who had beaten him in the 2005 final as well.
Does he attribute the losses to a mental block? “There is definitely no mental block when I play Alok. I played him at the camp, and I beat him 3-0 with three unfinished hundreds.” Aren’t national camps a more relaxed exercise? “No, trust me, it is very competitive. I did not want to lose to Alok at any cost. Since he had beaten me, I wanted to show him what billiards is all about. That’s how we are, that’s how we play against each other even at practice.”
Bhaskar states that he is not mentored or coached by a senior professional to iron out flaws.
“I found that my problem was more in the technical aspects. This is where the golf manuals helped me.” The Bangalorean is confident that a golden run is imminent. “Just wait, you are going to see some solid performances from now on.”