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cue sports wizard

In this tete-a-tete with Kaushikibrata Banerjee, Advani reveals the secrets behind his enviable success,  his love for other sports and more. Here are excerpts from the interview:

At 28, you have won almost everything in your sport. How do you motivate yourself?
Winning is challenging, but maintaining is the true test of mastery. I would like to keep proving to myself I am capable of doing it over and over again. That is my main motivation.
 
What is more to achieve for you, now?
Success is addictive, so keeping it going is what I want to achieve. I rate consistency really high and that to me is my ultimate goal.
 
How did you pick up billiards which is not a very popular sport in India?
More than popularity, I am simply grateful that I found something I love doing. By the way, billiards, or for that matter cue sports on the whole, is the most successful sport in India. We have brought in the maximum number of world titles compared to any other sport. But getting back to your question, I first started playing snooker by following my brother Shree to a snooker club after school each evening in the mid-90s. I was barely 10 when I developed a keen interest in the sport. After watching him and his friends play for a couple of weeks, I gathered the courage to ask him if I could give it a go. He taught me the technique at a very basic level and when I attempted my very first shot, I got it! It was love at first shot!
 
Your brother played a great role in your professional life. How is your relation with him and tell us a bit about his behind-the-scene role?
We do not have sibling rivalry at all; it’s more like sibling revelry. His role in my life is monumental. I got introduced to the sport thanks to him. He was the first person to teach me how to play. Then we competed together at state and national levels and compared notes as we were growing up. Then he got into sports psychology, which has turned out to be a massive boon for my performance. The two things I am grateful for where Shree is concerned are, one, we live together hence he is available whenever I need his help. Two, he has a deep understanding of the sport, which is a huge advantage. We talk about it a lot and he often gives valuable inputs which only enhance my game besides strengthening  my mind.
 
You shifted to snooker at a later stage of your career. What led you to make the shift?
Well, actually I started with snooker and won my first world title in it too.
 
How do you prepare for two different sports?
It is probably the biggest challenge but unfortunately not many in the world understand it. Most top players specialise in one sport. It takes time to adapt from one to the other. I have to change my technique, mindset and approach. Since I’ve been doing it for over 15 years now, I’m quite used to juggling the two sports. However, at the highest level, it’s quite a task!

Which one do you love more and find more challenging?

I just cannot choose one over the other. Both are dear to me. Billiards and snooker both have their own charm. I love playing both and am redefining the word ‘specialisation’. I believe, I’m specialising in two sports and don’t feel the need to choose any one.
 
How optimistic are you about the new generation of cue sports players coming up in India? Do you see a bright future for Indian cue sports?
Definitely there is a talented crop of players emerging. The likes of Dhvaj Haria, Aditya Agarwal and Jaiveer Dhingra are promising billiards players while the likes of Shivam Arora, Faisal Khan and Laxman Rawat are the future of Indian snooker.

Apart from sports, what are your areas of interest? Do you follow any other sport?
I love following tennis. Roger Federer is the epitome of grace and success in sport. My brother works with a lot of badminton players so I’ve been watching the sport with him and he really enjoys the body and mind in play on court. As a sportsperson, one tends to be a sports lover, so almost any sport is a treat to watch.
 
Some feel both snooker and billiards is a little elitist. How true is it?
Not at all. It is easily accessible in state associations and cue sports clubs. For example, in Bangalore, the Karnataka State Billiards Association (KSBA) has ongoing coaching programmes. If the coaches believe a candidate has what it takes, they recommend his name for a ‘talent category membership’. This allows them to use the facilities to hone their skills and practice along side the best players. There are players from all walks of life making it to international stages of competition.

You have made a name for yourself since an early age. Do you think you are as popular as Indian cricketers?
I’m not aware nor do I look at such parameters. To me, achievement is far more important than popularity. Compare the achievements and let me know.
 
Who or what has been the main motivation in your life for this grand success?
There are a number of people, starting with my coach, Arvind Savur, who took me under his wing and made me the player I am today. Without his guidance, I wouldn’t have won a single world title. My mother has been my pillar of strength. Her evolved nature has influenced me to stay grounded and humble in success and gracious in defeat. I just aspire to further my depth as a human being, thanks to her. Shree, of course, has been of invaluable help to my growth and performance. The KSBA too have played a big role in my development. Their support and encouragement has been most helpful.
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