Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: The Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) has announced that it would ensure that all the 17 members are sent for the Doha Asian Games. According to Capt. P.V.K. Mohan, President, BSFI, the Union Government had cleared only nine names for the Asian Games including Geeth Sethi, Pankaj Advani, Ashok Shandilya, Yasin Merchant, Manan Chandra, Rupesh Shah, Alok Kumar, Anuja Thakur and M. Chitra.

"We have taken into account the potential of all other players in the camp and have decided to send the remaining eight players on our own without burdening the Government," Mr. Mohan said as the final preparatory camp had its last set of training sessions at the Karnataka State Billiards Association here on Wednesday.

`Bright chance'

Chief coach Subash Agarwal hoped that India would fare much better than what it did at Busan in 2002, when it won one gold in snooker doubles (Rafath Habib and Yasin Merchant), one silver in billiards doubles (Alok Kumar and Geeth Sethi) and one bronze in billiards singles (Geeth Sethi).

"We rate our chances as very bright and in addition to picking up medals in both billiards and snooker, I pin my hopes on pool events for men and women as well," said Agarwal.

"All the players have trained very hard. Also, during the final camp here we introduced yoga classes for the campers," he added.

Pankaj Advani said, "I am looking forward to the Asiad and the camps and tournaments that we have had till now have helped all of us. I am in great shape, playing sharp and well focussed and I hope to come back with the gold."

`Big achievement'

A singles title at the Asiad might have eluded the former World champion, Sethi, but nevertheless, he felt that a medal of any hue is still a big achievement. "When I first won the billiards doubles gold with Shandilya in 1998, I wept as I stood on the podium. It was a unique experience," said Sethi.

He too felt that the Indian haul would improve. "The pool events should go very much in our way and of course I count on doing my bit with Ashok in billiards doubles," he said. He also gave high marks for the Yoga stint at the camp. "The breathing exercises gave me an amazing sense of calmness and improved my concentration," he said.

Former Asian snooker champion Merchant also echoed Sethi's sentiment on winning a medal at the Asiad. "I never felt so proud in my life when the Indian flag went up as I stood on the podium with Rafath. It was just great," said Yasin, who expects a strong competition especially from the Thais at Doha. "But we hope to spring a few surprises," he added.

For the first time, India will field four women for the ladies pool event (nine ball and eight ball). They include National champion and former World billiards champion Anuja Thakur, reigning World billiards champion Chitra Magimairaj, pool champion Vidya Pillai, and Meenal Thakur.

"We do fancy our chances and it all depends on the kind of competition we face, but we are prepared for it as we have trained well for the big meet," said Vidya and Chitra.

The cue sport squad for Asian Games: Men: Billiards: Pankaj Adavani, Ashok Shandilya, Geeth Sethi. Snooker: Yasin Merchant, Manan Chandra, Aditya Mehta, Rupesh Shah. Eight ball pool: Dharminder Singh Lily, Alok Kumar. Nine ball pool: Sumit Talwar, Mohammed Asim. Three cushion carom: Kosaraju Ranjan, Balachandra Bhaskar. Women: Eight ball pool: Anjua Thakur, Chitra Magimairaj.

Nine ball pool: Meenal Thakur, Vidya Pillai. Chief coach: Subash Agarwal. Coaches: Manoj Kothari, Sanjay Swant.

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