I constantly talk to myself to reinforce that I am capable and that I can achieve, once again: Pankaj Advani
Pankaj Advani, the 23-time world champion, based in Bangalore, is accused of another year full of tournaments where he hopes to do what he does every year: win. The only record he beats every year is his. This year, however, is also about imparting knowledge, since Pankaj has initiated a connection with the Bengaluru schools, where students can learn the nuances of sport with him. While they say he feels lonely at the top, there have been rumors that Cupid hit here, that the athlete insists on protecting. I'll let you know, in due course, it's all it says. To Pankaj ...
What about 2020 that is more exciting for you right now?
It is the beginning of the new year and there are many tournaments in a row as usual, which begins with the National Championship in April. In the middle of the year the Asian Championships will be seen, which will be followed by the World Championships. In addition to this, I have two things in mind for billiards and snooker.
One is for the sport to be televised, which our federation should consider. A professional league, which is televised, will not only attract viewers, but also provide more visibility to aspiring cueists. The other is what I can do in my own capacity through my initiative, Cue Schools by Pankaj Advani. Through this, we hope to bring the game to schools. I want to give aspiring storytellers a platform to pursue their talent in this sport.
How feasible is it to have a professional televised league?
As a player, I can talk about what I expect for the sport. It is the federation, the administrators and the people in charge of popularizing the sport who must answer this question. All I can say is that there was a league in 2017, and it was televised. Not sure what happened to him. But it hasn't been that way in the last two years.
You have been inclined to work with new talents, mainly children. What is the plan behind that?
It is very encouraging to see the passion with which children have learned the sport. Some of them have immense talent. Few of them also participated in the state classification events. The whole idea behind my initiative to reach school-age children is to provide a platform for young and aspiring players to hone their skills and create future champions by developing the grassroots level.
On the international front, you have been breaking your own records every year. Do you have any peculiarity or mantra that you follow to motivate yourself before participating in each championship?
The hunger to achieve is very important, as it is to believe in yourself. You must constantly remind yourself that you are the player who won last time and that you should be better than that. You only see the achievements and titles at the end of the day, but the process to get there takes a lot, both emotionally and physically. The career of an athlete goes through many ups and downs, it is never easy. In that sense, I feel that I am a constant work in progress. One cannot always be at the top, because there are always other factors in life that change and, therefore, affect the way one plays in a match. It is not easy to maintain the same levels of energy and intensity. I speak constantly with myself, sometimes in front of the mirror and sometimes when I am alone. I remind myself that I have done it in the past and reinforce the belief that I am still able to do it, once again, any day and at any time. Before playing an important tournament, I tend to get into a shell, I don't talk to people much. It is even more when I travel. I just read only during these competitions. My family and my closest friends understand my need to be alone before a tournament and let me be too.
As someone who has excelled in individual sports such as billiards and billiards, how do you think he has done well in team sport?
The dynamics of team sport is very different compared to that of individual sport. In an individual sport, you are completely in charge of your performance. If you win, you take all the credit. If you lose, you are entirely to blame for the loss. It is good in some way, because you have no external factor to blame or comment on. It's only you and your performance in the arena. In team sports, it is not only their performance, but also the relationship with their teammates, among other things, that tends to matter. There are times when players within the team end up trying to compete with each other. That, fortunately, is not something I have to deal with.
Team members are also subject to the selection process, in which one is at the mercy of the selectors. In individual sport, all you need to do is play well, and soon you will be in the front line of the country's players and you will be representing India. As long as you play well, nobody will stop you. This is what I'm used to and I can't think of anything else.
Do you practice any other sport?
Well, I'm only good at one and I'd rather let it be that way (laughs). However, I love watching tennis and I am anxiously waiting for the Australian Open to see if the big three (Djokovic, Nadal and Federer) can still reign supremely or the next generation will take over.