Amal Razak was a decent sprinter and basketball player at school. But a casual visit to a pool parlour changed his life. He got hooked to it and slowly, to snooker too.
The 20-year-old from Thiruvananthapuram has made some big moves that he hopes will carry him far in the sport.
“Three years ago I moved to Bengaluru mainly for snooker. I felt I could have exposure to better players there,” said Razak, Kerala’s most promising junior, in a chat with The Hindu on the sidelines of the State Championships at the Regional Sports Centre here.
“I train for nine hours every day at three centres in Bengaluru, at KBSA, East Cultural Association and Bangalore Academy. As I’m studying BA psychology through Open university, I can put in the hours to play snooker.”
Bengaluru also offered Razak a precious encounter with multiple World champion Pankaj Advani.
“We had an exhibition frame...he thrashed me nicely, it’s on YouTube too. He gave me a couple of tips and it helped me mentally get through the game a lot better,” said Razak who is sponsored by Nest Digital.
Razak’s presence has brought a new feel to the championships.
“The positive thing about young players, like Amal and my son Irfan Akthar, is that they are not defensive, they are attacking. We need attacking players,” said Mohammed Arshad, the defending State billiards champion.
Razak explained why an attacking mentality helps.
“Break-building is a big thing in this sport. You need to have the mindset where the one chance you get, you need to utilise it to the point where you have nothing to lose. People here think, I played a shot, I missed it, I will get another chance,” he said.
“You should not think like that. With that one chance, you need to score as much you can. So, I think I have an advantage in this.”
Razak and his friend Irfan Akthar used to meet each other in junior and sub-junior finals and share the trophies too. But Akthar, who is also very promising, was forced to take a long break for his 10 th exams a few months ago.
“I started playing four days ago after a four-month break. I haven’t been able to practice much,” confessed the 17-year-old.
But despite the talented duo, Kerala has been struggling to find players to fill up the junior State fixtures. What could be the reason?
“People tend to think that all snooker players smoke and drink. Most parents don’t allow them to go to clubs and play,” said Akthar, a 11th standard student at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Vaduthala.
“Parents should help their children explore various options. This (Regional Sports Centre) is a perfect place to start...with coaching camps.”