Advani agrees in part with Kohli's 'consistency' theory
- By winning the IBSF World Billiards Championships in the 150-up format last Sunday, Pankaj Advani is now the man with most world titles in cue sports
- Having made consistency a habit since his first world title in 2003, Advani has managed to stay at the top of his game for more than a decade and a half now
Last Sunday, Advani took the count of his world titles to a mind-boggling 22. The Bradmanesque consistency in cue sports, unmatched in the modern era, helped the Bengaluru whiz win the IBSF World Billiards Championships in the 150-up format.
With eyeballs moving tirelessly looking for space between balls and the brain mapping the best route to pockets around the table, adjectives to describe Advani's skill and resultant feats are becoming hard to find. Simply put, he is now the man with more world titles than anyone else in the sport. That should suffice.
At 34, Advani has entered the league that sportspersons like Sir Don Bradman, Mohammad Ali, Major Dhyan Chand, Jesse Owens and Roger Federer have made their home. It's another matter altogether that cue sports is not as popular in the traditional sense as cricket, boxing, hockey, athletics or tennis. But that can't take anything away from Advani's incredible achievements.
Having made consistency a habit since his first world title in 2003, Advani has managed to stay at the top of his game for more than a decade and a half now. Surely that requires much more than just skill and fitness.
In an insightful chat with TimesofIndia.com, Advani shared how a lot of things come together to help him stay in control and knock down his targets 'frame by frame'.
Among all the sportspersons in India, you are one of the most consistent. What do you attribute that to?
I think consistency and success are all a state of mind and I feel that my brother (Dr) Shree (Advani), who is a sports psychologist, has really mentally helped me and programmed my mind in such a way where I am always switched on during big matches and never really short of self-belief. I think for any top sportsperson, self-belief is extremely important. If you believe in your own ability, you make it count; and when you do that, then obviously you tend to perform better under pressure. So I think it's a combination of these factors, but obviously I attribute it largely to the efforts of Shree who has really helped me over the last ten years.
Winning is a habit, and you are one of the best examples of that in sports. But it takes a lot to do that, both on and off the table. Tell us something about that.
Winning is obviously important but also the way you play the game is important, how you manage your not-so-good days, because it is not humanly possible to play at 100 percent every day, it's not possible to play fluently every day. Sometimes your opponent also starts playing well. So how you manage those days, how you manage the situation is very important. The understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in so many different conditions that you get to play in (is important).
Players are not (always) able to adapt to different conditions, just like in hockey, cricket or football, depending on the pitch, the ground, the weather conditions. Even in my sport, the tables keep changing, the way the balls react, the speed, the reaction of the cushions.
I think having a sharp mind to understand these things is very important and that's what I feel I have gained knowledge about over the years through my experience. I have put that to good use and also learnt from my losses and mistakes. Only when you grow from your failure, you really improve in your performance.
Consistency, in terms of practising and in terms of doing the basics, yes it's boring, because a lot of sports require you to do a certain amount of routine in the drills, and it can get repetitive. But in terms of performance at the big stage, I don't think it's boring because it excites me.
Every time I am playing a big match, it sort of motivates me to do well, instead of thinking I am going to get nervous with so many people watching, what will happen if I win, what will happen if I lose. Obviously these thoughts go on in your mind. We are all human beings.
Whatever we practice, normally, it's not always the same shots that we get in a match. Sometimes you have to think out of the box, you have to be creative. So I feel consistency is also about how you vary your approach, how you adapt to the situation, also taking a positive approach towards the big matches. But yes, at the same time it is boring, because when you are practising, you are doing the same things over and over again to master your art and your skill.
Talking about consistent sportspersons, there is also Roger Federer, who is now in the twilight of his legendary career and finding it tough to win Grand Slams. How difficult is that to accept for a successful sportsperson?
Clearly, the body gives you signs. At different phases of your career, certain things, which were once your strengths, are not that much of a strength anymore because of the age factor, because of the reflexes slowing down. Especially in a physical sport like tennis, all these things matter even more. In billiards and snooker, it could probably be the hand-eye coordination, the aim, the accuracy that could go down. But it's also about how you manage these things.
Happy Birthday to the sportsperson I admire the most @rogerfederer 🎂🎉🎁 🎾 🏆 https://t.co/m0uu5lZolJ— Pankaj Advani (@PankajAdvani247) 1565251712000
I am not a tennis expert but Federer, at this stage of his career, will have to manage in terms of his fitness, in terms of the shots that he plays, in terms of making the points shorter. It's something that he will have to deal with and come to terms with the fact that "okay, I am not at my best anymore physically and in terms of my reflexes". How do you then come up with a different strategy to manage your game and still be effective, that's the key in sport. It's percentage approach that works.
Many believe had cue sports been part of the Olympics, India surely would have had another individual gold medallist in Pankaj Advani. Your take on that.
It is disappointing that the sport is not part of the Olympics, but personally, I have so many international events to play every year and I am still representing my country. So irrespective of whether I am in the Olympics or not, winning a World Championships for me is equivalent to winning an Olympic gold medal. That's always going to be the way I look at things.
How do you rejuvenate yourself in order to keep competing and winning. In short, what are those off-the-table things you do to be ready and in the right frame of mind for all the challenges?
It's all about passion, it's all about the hunger and the will to perform. Speaking to my brother Shree, he says it's just about how badly you want it, it's about the efforts you make, what you are willing to do to win or be up there. If you take things for granted just because you have won before, it doesn't work. If you have not won many times before and you keep reminding yourself of the fact that "I haven't done this before", then you are living in the past.
So it's about living in the present, doing the right things at the right time, it's about putting in that effort mentally. Everybody knows we need to be physically present in the arena to play those shots but also mentally how much are you willing to invest? I feel that every victory of the mind is a part of me that I give emotionally and mentally.
It's obviously very, very taxing and very consuming but that's the price I pay to be at the top.