Relied on experience and temperament to win two titles in Doha in consecutive weeks: Ace cueist Pankaj Advani

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Advani
clinched
his
24th
World
title
by
winning
the
6-Red
Snooker
World
Cup
in
Doha,
Qatar,
in
September
and
had
earlier
retained
his
Asian
Snooker
title
as
well
in
the
same
city
a
week
prior
to
it.

The
current
India
No.
2
in
an
exclusive
interview
with

Mykhel

said
it
was
pleasing
to
start
the
campaign
on
a
winning
note
but
also
believes
the
rustiness
acquired
due
to
the
lack
of
national
and
international
events
means
the
sportspersons
will
take
some
time
to
find
the
rhythm.

The
36-year-old
cueist
from
Bangalore
touched
upon
topics
like
life
in
the
lockdown,
injuries,
friendship
with
cricketer
Robin
Uthappa,
the
role
of
his
elder
brother
Shree
Advani
and
his
coach
Arvind
Savur
in
his
career,
and
his
recent
marriage
to
celebrity
make-up
artist
Saniya
Shahdadpuri.


Here
are
the
excerpts:


MyKhel:
What
were
the
challenges
you
faced
during
the
COVID-19
imposed
lockdown
as
there
was
no
sporting
activity
for
almost
a
year?
How
did
you
keep
yourself
motivated?


Pankaj
Advani:

It
has
been
a
very
difficult
phase
for
the
entire
human
race
to
deal
with
something
like
this.
No
one
had
ever
imagined
that
they’ll
lose
their
loved
ones
to
a
pandemic
and
get
restricted
to
the
confines
of
their
homes.
We
had
to
remain
indoors,
no
physical
activities
and
socialising.
Only
phones
and
gadgets
kept
the
people
in
touch.

In
the
first
few
months,
I
wasn’t
even
thinking
about
the
sport
because
everyone’s
health
and
safety
was
of
paramount
importance
back
then.
At
the
same
time,
especially
for
the
sportspersons

who
travel
a
lot

the
lockdown
was
easier
to
deal
with
because
that’s
something
we
would
have
wanted
anyway.

We
could
stay
at
home
for
ten
days
or
a
week,
relax
and
do
nothing.
But
when
the
lockdown
was
imposed
for
the
second
time
it
was
difficult
and
that’s
when
I
realised
that
patience
is
one
thing
that
will
take
you
forward.
Things
don’t
happen
overnight,
you
do
not
become
champion
overnight
and
don’t
get
success
and
adulation
overnight.

It
was
really
difficult
for
everyone,
especially
youngsters,
to
come
to
terms
with
one-and-a-half
years
of
doing
nothing.
Not
knowing
when
the
competitions
will
resume.
So
it
was
really
difficult.
I
would
go
for
a
walk
and
keep
my
mind
stimulated
by
playing
some
online
games,
helping
out
a
little
bit
in
the
household
as
there
were
no
domestic
aides
available.
Personally,
I
feel
I
became
a
better
human
being
but
of
course,
professionally,
we
have
all
suffered.


MK:
Did
you
interact
with
fellow
cueists
or
athletes
during
these
tough
times
to
know
how
the
other
person
was
dealing
with
the
tribulations
of
the
COVID-19?


Pankaj:

Our
fraternity
is
quite
closely
knit,
our
rivalries
are
healthy
and
we
are
good
friends
off
the
table.
So,
amongst
the
players,
we
kept
in
touch
with
each
other
quite
frequently
during
that
phase,
especially
before
the
tournament
started.
You
know
Robin
Uthappa
is
a
good
friend
of
mine
and
my
neighbour
in
Bangalore.
We
have
been
in
constant
touch
during
those
tough
times.

I
have
even
been
reaching
out
to
fellow
players
in
the
snooker
fraternity
to
be
connected
and
find
out
when
the
next
event
was
starting
because
our
tournaments
took
a
little
longer
to
begin.

For
Robin,
I
am
extremely
happy
for
he
was
instrumental
in
helping
Chennai
(Super
Kings)
win
the
IPL
2021.
So,
I
am
really
happy
for
him.


MK:
Did
you
face
any
hardships
adjusting
to
the
rules
kept
in
place
in
Qatar?


Pankaj:

There
were
a
lot
of
formalities
and
documents
to
be
submitted.
So
that
was
a
little
painful
in
that
sense
but
then
we
all
understood
why
all
that
was
put
in
place.
The
organisers
had
to
be
cautious
of
who’s
entering
the
country
because
there
are
fewer
positive
cases
there.
We
were
at
the
hotel
where
the
competition
was
being
held.
So
we
didn’t
have
to
go
out
a
lot,
although
there
wasn’t
any
restriction
on
our
outside
movement.

Also,
there
was
an
application
that
we
had
to
show
wherever
we
entered.
The
app
was
just
like
the
Arogya
Setu
app
we
have
at
home
which
monitors
if
we
are
in
the
safe
zone
or
not.
So,
yes
it
was
different
this
time
but
we
have
to
adapt
and
we
(as
athletes)
know
that
probably
better
than
anyone
else
(it
was
for
our
own
safety).


MK:
Do
you
think
this
break
has
also
affected
the
quality
of
sport?


Pankaj:

This
is
a
game
of
muscle
memories
so
it
will
take
a
long
time
for
us
to
gain
the
original
rhythm.
The
quality
of
the
game
isn’t
going
to
be
as
high
as
it
was
for
a
while.
The
reason
why
I
won
in
Doha
is
that
I
relied
on
my
experience
and
temperament,
courtesy
of
my
elder
brother
Shree
Advani
who
is
a
sports
psychologist.
I
just
played
through
those
big
points
well
and
got
through
those
tricky
situations
well.
Everyone
seemed
rusty
but
seemed
excited
at
the
same
time.
So
everybody
seemed
hungry
to
give
their
best.


MK:
How
do
you
deal
with
the
pressure
of
expectations
being
the
flagbearer
of
the
sport
in
India?


Pankaj:

There
are
always
expectations,
I
think
the
expectations
that
others
have
from
you
are
easier
to
deal
with
than
the
ones
you
have
from
yourself.
There
are
certain
standards
that
you
have
set
for
yourself
and
if
you
go
below
that,
you
start
doubting
yourself.
So,
you
have
to
be
at
your
best
at
all
times
and
take
every
match
and
opponent
seriously.
You
can’t
get
complacent
for
you
never
know
when
your
opponent
will
surprise
you,
and
that’s
the
kind
of
mindset
I
have.
I
also
understand
the
responsibility
on
my
shoulders,
being
the
flagbearer
of
the
sport
in
the
country
and
enjoy
it.

Being
the
face
of
the
sport
in
the
country,
the
responsibility
lies
upon
our
shoulders
to
popularise
the
sport
as
well.
I
think
the
sport
really
needs
to
grow
in
our
country.
There’s
no
dearth
of
talent
because
there
are
so
many
good
players
in
the
country.
I
think
the
only
aspect
we
lag
behind
is
the
television
coverage
for
that
will
help
the
sport
gain
popularity.
But
that’s
a
question
for
the
federation
to
answer.


MK:
What
else
do
you
think
is
a
hindrance
for
the
sport
to
reach
the
masses?


Pankaj:

There’s
also
a
perception
that
needs
to
be
busted
is
cue
sport
is
a
rich
man’s
sport.
But
the
thing
is
most
of
us
who
are
representing
the
country
at
the
national
and
international
level
hail
from
the
middle
class.

The
‘cue’ that
we
have
aren’t
very
expensive,
in
fact,
it
costs
far
lesser
than
badminton
and
tennis
because
it’s
a
one-time
investment
and
could
be
used
by
a
lot
of
people.
Yes,
every
sport
has
its
share
of
struggle
but
that’s
part
of
every
athlete’s
life.
We
all
work
hard,
don’t
we?
With
corporate
support
and
help
from
the
federation,
our
sport
can
do
wonders.
Also,
a
franchise-based
league
like
the
other
sports
are
having
can
just
help
the
game
reach
the
next
level.


MK:
How
do
you
approach
any
big
game?
Are
there
any
special
preparations
you
make?


Pankaj:

Everyone
has
nerves
ahead
of
big
games
or
matchups
but
I
try
to
enjoy
them
and
embrace
the
occasion.
Instead
of
trying
to
run
away
from
it,
I
try
to
accept
it
for
that’s
what
we
work
so
hard
for.
I
know
there’s
pressure
but
then
the
pressure
can
be
enjoyed
too.
I
have
developed
this
mentality
over
the
years
and
with
the
experiences.
Even
my
brother
helps
me
a
lot
in
this
direction
as
he
could
break
down
those
moments
where
I
did
wrong
and
how
I
can
improve
it
after
thorough
analysis.


MK:
How
important
was
the
role
of
your
brother
in
your
formative
years?


Pankaj:

Shree’s
contribution
has
been
immense
in
my
success.
He’s
helped
me
at
times
I
was
really
low
on
motivation.
He’s
helped
me
play
big
matches
well
and
not
let
anxiety
get
the
better
of
me
in
crunch
situations.
He’s
been
instrumental
in
my
consistency
as
a
player,
he
has
made
me
resilient.


MK:
Which
has
been
your
most
special
achievement?


Pankaj:

As
they
say,
your
first
love
is
always
special.
For
me,
the
memory
of
winning
my
first
world
title
on
October
25,
2005
in
China
will
always
be
special.
Next
week,
it
will
be
18
years
exactly
and
I’ve
got
very
fond
memories
of
it.
It
was
Diwali,
and
I
remember
calling
back
home
when
my
family,
my
coach
and
the
club
members
were
bursting
crackers
and
celebrating
my
victory
as
well
as
the
festival
of
lights.

I
remember
the
huge
reception
at
the
airport
and
was
taken
in
the
huge
motorcade
around
the
city
upon
my
arrival.
I
would
love
those
memories
to
come
back
soon
on
an
occasion
like
that.


MK:
What
are
your
plans
for
the
near
future?


Pankaj:

We
have
selection
trials
for
the
World
Championships,
the
one
I
won
18
years
back.
This
time
the
championships
will
begin
in
Doha
by
November
end,
so
my
aim
would
be
to
finish
in
the
top
two
from
the
country
to
qualify.
Then
we
have
national
championships
as
well
in
the
next
two
to
three
months.
There’s
quite
a
packed
calendar
now
and
a
lot
of
excitement
is
there
as
well.
Also,
I’ll
be
travelling
a
lot
between
Mumbai
and
Bangalore
as
I
am
dividing
my
time
between
these
two
cities
now
and
it’s
fun.


MK:
You
recently
got
married.
How’s
your
second
innings
going?


Pankaj:

Marriage
is
a
new
phase
I’ve
entered
so
I
am
enjoying
it
too.
I
used
to
think
it
was
only
the
sport
that
kept
me
consumed
for
so
long
but
things
have
changed
after
my
marriage
to
Saniya,
as
I
have
a
lot
more
to
look
out
for
on
a
personal
level.


MK:
From
whom
do
you
take
inspiration
in
your
life?


Pankaj:

From
within
my
sport,
I
take
inspiration
from
my
brother
Shree
and
my
coach
Arvind
sir.
Arvind
sir
has
played
a
huge
role
in
my
success.
He
took
me
under
his
wings
without
charging
a
single
penny
to
date.
He
never
won
a
world
title
himself
so
he
realised
his
dreams
through
me.
Rarely,
you
find
such
generous
and
kind-hearted
people
like
my
coach.

And
outside
this
sport,
I
love
tennis
and
the
legendary
Roger
Federer.
Just
the
way
he
plays
the
game
and
speaks
at
the
interviews
is
inspiring.
He
doesn’t
take
himself
seriously
and
that’s
what
I
love
about
him.
He
brings
a
certain
class
and
grace
to
the
sport
that
I
could
relate
to.
Also,
his
humour
is
simply
amazing.


MK:
Not
much
is
talked
about
injuries
player
goes
through
in
cue
sports.
How
did
you
combat
those
injury
concerns
in
your
career,
also
what
would
be
your
message
to
the
budding
athletes
who
feel
it
is
the
end
of
the
road
for
them
after
sustaining
an
injury?


Pankaj:

It’s
a
good
question,
actually
there
are
two
aspects
to
it.
Earlier,
as
I
was
speaking
about
COVID-19
there
were
few
youngsters
I
have
been
in
touch
with
during
the
lockdown.
One
of
them
went
into
depression
thinking
he
won’t
be
able
to
compete
anymore.
And
these
are
the
youngsters
who’ve
never
participated
in
an
international
competition.

That’s
when
I
talked
to
them
to
help
them
understand
that
I’ve
been
there
done
that.
I’ve
seen
it’s
difficult
to
deal
with
injuries,
especially
the
mental
part
of
it.
I
try
and
explain
to
them
that
life’s
not
just
about
sport,
it’s
much
bigger
than
that.
We
need
to
cherish
it.
Success
and
failure
are
part
and
parcel
of
life.

I’ve
suffered
an
injury
in
2018
with
my
upper
back
which
kept
me
out
of
action
for
nearly
six
months.
Even
now
I
am
battling
stiffened
upper
back
and
working
hard
to
keep
myself
fit.
Injury
is
a
part
and
parcel
of
our
sport
as
well.
But
people
hardly
realise
that
we
are
also
prone
to
injuries.
Bending
up
and
down,
keeping
the
hands
and
fingers
stretched
at
long
times
does
take
a
toll.
A
lot
of
cue
sports
athletes
face
back-related
injuries
in
their
careers.
Now
I
have
ensured
that
wherever
I
am
I
keep
myself
fit
and
understand
my
body.


MK:
What
do
you
do
in
your
free
time?


Pankaj:

I
love
bowling,
I
love
watching
films
and
listening
to
music.
Whenever
I
am
on
international
flights
I
watch
films
and
on
domestic
flights
I
prefer
listening
to
music
be
it
Bollywood,
English
or
Pop.
Before
the
match,
I
have
my
pre-match
preparations
like
visualising
but
after
the
match,
I
try
to
keep
myself
busy
by
watching
comedy
movies,
or
shows
on
the
television.
I
have
also
started
keeping
a
track
of
the
latest
developments
in
the
world
through
the
news
to
keep
myself
updated
(smiles).

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