Pankaj Advani believes his performance improves when he ‘feels the butterflies in his stomach’ as it helps him stay sharp on the game ahead. After becoming the only player to complete a Career Grand Slam across formats, 34-year-old Advani believes he can still raise the bar in cue sports.
Ahead of a hectic three months, which includes the upcoming Billiards, Snooker World Championships, Advani’s CV reads like this – 21 World, 21 National and 11 junior titles. Earlier this year, Advani made his way into the history books by becoming the only player to win the Asian and World Championships in all formats. But even the master of both cue sports admits that he feels the pressure ahead of a big clash.
“I visualise before I play any big match. So it helps me prepare mentally what I’m going to go through. I do feel the pressure, though. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t, even though I have won so much in my career. It’s only when I feel those butterflies in my stomach that I play well. I am much sharper but when I’m not nervous I feel like I am complacent and taking it too easy. It’s important to feel that. So when I’m under pressure before a game, I am on the right track,” Advani told Scroll.
It would be understandable, and only human, if Advani ever got bored of winning titles one after another, but that is not the case with him. Even at 34, Advani is hungry for more.
“It’s just the love and passion for the game that keeps me going. The challenges keep on changing for a sportsperson. When I won my first world title it was about whether I could do it or not. But later on when you start winning consistently, you become a bit more cautious, you mature as a player and use that experience. There you can’t play as fearlessly because I am expected to win so I have a certain reputation to maintain. So you go down a plateau and then you realise and use that experience to become a more complete player. Once you start winning again, it is a constant challenge,” Advani said.
Throughout his magnificent career, he has broken world records for fun, but there is one achievement Advani is proud of more than others. He has mastered both billiards and snooker by dominating in the IBSF circuit for years now – Sourav Kothari the only other to play both snooker and billiards internationally.
“There are few players like Sourav who have tried playing both and they’re good at it. But no players have represented India at the same time. That’s where I have been able to say I have broken the myth and that you don’t need to specialise in one category. But it is a lot of effort I have put in to make that look effortless. No one has specialised in both billiards and snooker and I feel that has been my biggest breakthrough as a cuiest,” he said.
“Its technique and it also comes down to an understanding of the sport. Because the two cannot be approached with the same mindset. You need to have more stamina, prolonged periods of concentration for billiards, whereas, in snooker, you need to be more tactically aware. It’s more of a hit-and-run kind of game, where a lot more accuracy and precision is involved. The styles are very contrasting,” Advani added.