Snooker was invented in India in 1875. It was the rainy season and British army officers were indoors mucking about with the rules of existing cue sports.

The invention of snooker is credited to Colonel Neville Chamberlain, who was in fact only 19 and not a colonel in 1875. With just a few minor tweaks here and there the rules he instituted are still the rules by which the game is played today. They have more than stood the test of time.

This is not leading up to me making the old gag about snooker starting in an officer’s mess and ending up in a total mess but a way of drawing attention to the exploits this week of the professional circuit’s two Indian players, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta.

Advani is a former world professional billiards champion, his main sport. Just 27, he is much admired at home where billiards remains a popular sport.

Advani has received many national honours, including the Khel Ratna, which I suppose is a bit like the BBC Sports Personality of the Year but an award which recognises that cue sports exist and are popular (although Steve Davis did win SPOTY in 1988).

Mehta is a double Asian Games medallist and has already this season appeared in the final qualifying round of two ranking events.

He has just won the Arjuna Award, another national accolade for sporting achievement.

On Sunday, both Advani and Mehta made back-to-back centuries in winning their matches in the first qualifying round of the International Championship.

Advani then made two more today in beating Alan McManus in the third qualifying round, where Mehta is playing Jimmy White at the time of writing.

Advani must beat Michael Holt tomorrow to qualify, which would be a significant achievement.

India has a proud cue sports history but has never really had a top player at snooker.

There was O. B. Agrawal, who beat Stephen Hendry in his first ever match in the UK Championship, Yasin Merchant and Geet Sethi, a former world billiards champion, a great bloke and also a journalist for the Hindu.

It was Geet who pretty much killed off the press tournament due to the fact that he kept winning it.

He was usually accompanied to tournaments by Michael Ferreira, another billiards player who wrote for The Times of India.

Michael was always great company but would usually spend a good ten minutes shouting at the fax machine when the time came to send his copy home, the vagaries of technology often defeating him.

Now, India has Advani and Mehta: two young men starting to make strides on the other side of the world.

I don’t know either personally but on Twitter they come across as polite, professional and dedicated and the results are starting to come.

There was talk last year of a ranking event in India (there have been invitation tournaments in the past).

This will surely be made more likely if Advani and Mehta can continue their encouraging progress.


Anonymous said...

Who would have thought Hendon was such a racist? Next time you write a piece about players from India please use the politically correct term "Native Americans".

jamie brannon said...

Not forgetting Davis placed on four other occasions, and Alex Higgins and Stephen Hendry have come second.

I'd like to see snooker get more people on the podium, but sadly the public don't seem to want to vote for snooker players, or now the journalists who comprise the shortlist don't want to place snooker players on the shortlist of ten.

Dave H said...

They were placed in the days when the BBC let the public vote. The production team have never given snooker the time it deserves (the once even broke the World Championship trophy), although Terry Griffiths did once play trick shots in a space recently vacated by Red Rum.

Anonymous said...

No mention of Joe Jogia (who, after his recent decision to represent India, is technically the highest ranked Indian player - he might be back on the circuit soon if his appeal is successful;)

Anonymous said...

I thought Jogia couldn't afford an appeal? I guess his threat to spill his guts has someone spooked if money for an appeal has suddenly materialised.

Anonymous said...

too many chiefs..

Anonymous said...

Well done to Pankaj Advani for qualifying for his first venue after just two months on tour.

kimball said...

Pankaj Advani is one of the two players who has won the IBSF crown in
both Billiards and Snooker.Paul Mifsud being the other player.

jamie brannon said...

The public still vote now.

At the end of day, a two-hour show doesn't allow much time for any sport to be covered throughly, given the volume of sports there are.

I'd like snooker to get more time, it used to in the 1990s when the game was more popular in the UK. I recall Hendry and Higgins being interviewed one year.

I don't see how it could get more than ten minutes, not if I look at it objectively, but this year it may not get on at all. However, other sports will find their time diminished as it will Olympic dominated, which is perfectly understandable.

What annoys me is the written press who consistently ignore snooker players for the shortlist.

jamie brannon said...

Selby v Carter and Lee v Ebdon look the choice ties in the China International first round.

Dave H said...

It's not a free vote: it's a vote based on who the BBC think you should vote for.

Bearing in mind the staggering amount of sport they have lost over the last 20 years you'd think they'd make more of snooker on the show.

kildare cueman said...

Great to see the Indian breakthrough. The more nationalities the better.

jamie brannon said...

The BBC don't pick the shortlist, so don't see how they are dictating which of the ten you vote for. Yes, there are 'adverts' for each of the contenders but it is still the viewers choice.

The previous system had winners such as Paul Gascoigne, Greg Rusedski, and one year it was hijacked by people voting for the manager of Oxford United, Malcolm Shotton, so I think this system is probably better.

Although it is a BBC show, the event does have to feature the sport they don't have just as much.

I think snooker should get a little more, but even football probably doesn't get more than 15 minutes.

At the end of day, they had so much sport before as there was no competition, it isn't really a fair comparison. It is still a quality portfolio, but could do with more depth.