"We have come a long way but still lack money, sponsors," says BSFI President
The Bridge caught up with a few stakeholders of the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) to understand the status of cue sports in the country.
Indore: The 89th National Billiards and Snooker Championships 2022 held at the Sage University here has entered its final leg of competitions. With the grand tournament drawing to a close, The Bridge caught up with a few stakeholders of the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) to understand the status of cue sports in the country.
"Cue Sports, in India, has grown a lot over the years. I can say this blindly because I have been associated with it for more than two decades now. I have been associated with almost 22 championships, including 14 nationals in various capacity. We have also hosted the Indian Open five times," said Rajan Khinvasara - the President of BSFI.
"Cue sports has given India more than 50-60 gold medals at the international level - no other sport can boast of this. Today we have young players hitting centuries at will - this is all happening due to their exposure to some of the best professional players in the world."
"We have been hosting the nationals consistently, which has given the players a platform to showcase their talent. Back when I used to play there was hardly anything. The viewership too has increased steadily over the years," Khinvasara added.
Echoing the same sentiment was Balasubramaniam - the man who is expected to take charge and drive Indian cue sports ahead after Rajan Khinvasara's term concludes.
"Take the example of this National Championships itself. We have had more than 1200 participants and more than 1700 games in 19 different tables - yet we have been able to pull it off very smoothly. We are growing bigger with each passing year," Balasubramaniam stated.
"Our next major aim is to host professional events in India. We had Indian Open for five years, but could not host it post 2018. We are planning to bring it back," he added.
Sunil Bajaj - the Secretary General of BSFI, who has been associated with the sport for more than 45 years, believes that the only way to make India a cue sport superpower is to catch the talents young.
"Our ultimate aim at BSFI is to take cue sports to a different height and ensure professional training for our players. We need to see our players playing in the professional circuit in England," he said.
"I started playing when I was 13 - we have come a long way from then. Now we are promoting it in schools by collaborating with them. Amee Kamani is a product of this system. My perception is to catch them young. If we are able to locate talents at school levels, it will be much easier for us to train them and make good professionals out of them," Bajaj added.
"Snooker was designed first played in a place called Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. Thereafter the Britishers took the sport away from us. We want to bring the old glory back and there is no better way to do it than collaborating with schools," he said.
While the sport has surely grown leaps and bounds in India, president Rajan Khinvasara feels that the lack of sponsors is what is preventing cue sports from realising its full potential in India.
"Every sportsman deserves money. We would also like to see a Pankaj Advani earn close to what a Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma earns. We need to get more sponsors like IPL. Cue sports currently does not have a lot of money," he said.
"The federations' presidents and secretaries have been putting in money from their own pockets to host tournaments over the years. I myself have put in crores of rupees from my own pocket to host events. This is not sustainable in long run."
"If we are able to get in money and sponsors, we would naturally be able to draw in more players into the sport as well," Khinvasara said.
Cue Sports in Olympics?
Cue sports has never been a part of the Olympics in history. There have been various attempts made to get billiards and snooker into the global sporting spectacle, but none of it has bore any fruit.
Former Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra had, in October last year, indicated that cue sports could be a part if the 2036 Olympics if India wins the hosting rights for the quadrennial event.
"I believe that if India gets the 2036 Olympics then, as every host country can add three-four sports of their own if we can confirm that we can win three-four gold medals, we can add that [billiards and snooker] as a sport," Batra was quoted as saying by Mid-day then.
Speaking on the same Khinvasara said, "I can only keep my fingers crossed on the same. I have been in talks with the Olympic body directly and indirectly over the years but at the moment the chances are bleak."
Balasubramaniam, on the other hand, said that he feels if any cue sports makes it to the Olympics, it would be pool first.
"The way it looks now, if any among the cue sports gets into the Olympics - it could be pool first. I may be wrong, but I think pool would be the one because it is played more widely," he said.
He further expressed his surprise on how it is not played in the Commonwealth Games either.
"It is surprising that it is not in the Commonwealth Games. Because at the end it is a British sport. Though it was designed and played first in India - it was all done by British Army officers. It has been on and off in Asian Games and still continues to be a part of Asian Indoor Games, but Asian Indoor Games are not that popular," Balasubramaniam added.