Chawla aims for direct entry into pro circuit at Doha Asians

Mumbai: Bhopal-based cueist Kamal Chawla has targeted the Asian snooker championships commencing at Doha, Qatar on Friday, to finish among the top two and get a direct entry into the World Pro Circuit.

"I want to win at least a gold or silver medal in the Asian championships so that I get a direct entry into the World Pro Circuit. But even if I secure third position, I will try (to get into the circuit)," Chawla said during his stint in the Bombay Gymkhana Open Invitation tournament where he lost in the semi-finals.

Chawla missed a golden opportunity to take part in the China Open, one of the legs of the World Pro Circuit where he was invited to play in March, due to lack of funds.

"I am trying to get into the circuit. I got a call from the Asian Confederation, direct entry in the China Open, the biggest event in Asia. "I was called because of my international performance as I was the world no 3 and Asia no 3. That was in March but because I did not have funds (to go there), I did not take part. It was one of the legs of the pro championships," said the 32-year-old cueist.

Asked why he did not approach the Government to fund his trip, Chawla said it was because of the Government policy not to support participation in professional events. "I did not apply for funds because they don`t support participation in professional championships."

Chawla is now eager to make amends for losing at the quarterfinal stage of the previous continental championships held at Indore last year when he fell sick, and was happy that the Bombay Gymkhana event had given him the ideal tune-up for the Doha championships which conclude on April 28.

"This (Bombay Gymkhana) tournament was excellent and it has helped me a lot to prepare myself for the Asian snooker. In the last Asian championships, which was my first continental event, I failed to qualify for the medal round.

"I lost 4-5 in the quarter finals to an Iranian player (current world no 1 Hussein Vafaei). That was a different story as my health was not good that day. I vomited thrice before the match. This time, I hope I should get something better for India," said the MP cueist.

At Doha, India would be represented by Chawla, national champion Aditya Mehta, who has come home after his unsuccessful stint in the World Pro Championships in the UK, and current Asian billiards champion Pankaj Advani.

Though he lost in the quarterfinals at Indore, Chawla felt 2011 was overall a good year for him as he won the third position in Asian 6 Reds and a bronze in the IBSF World Snooker Championships at the end of the year.

"2011 was good for me. In February, I won the bronze medal in the Asian 6 Reds event. In April, I lost in the quarterfinals of Asian Snooker and in the World Championships in December, I was no 3. I won two medals and missed one," the India no 2 in snooker said.

"I hope that Doha will be good for India with Advani and Mehta also there. They have direct entries. Only they will get the seedings," remarked Chawla, who practices on a table at his friend`s home in Bhopal.

Chawla, who had lost in the quarterfinals of the Asian championships in 2009 too, considered Iranian Hussein and compatriots Advani and Mehta as his main rivals along with Thailand`s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

"The world no 1 to whom I lost in the quarterfinals at Indore, Hussein Vafaei, is a good player, then there is Thechaiya. But why talk of others - Advani is there. He`s striking very well and won the Asian Billiards title (in Goa earlier this month). Aditya is also there," said Chawla.

Chawla thought of quitting the sport four years ago as he had lost motivation due to lack of encouragement from his employers and paucity of funds but has now got a sponsor to take care of his domestic travel expenses.

"I am supported by Selvel (an outdoor advertising company) who are taking care of my domestic travel expenses. Because of them I am in the game. In 2008 I took the decision to stop playing. But then Selvel supported me and now I am playing," he said.

He rued the lack of adequate media coverage for cue sports and cited the example of the Bombay Gymkhana meet, in which all top Indian stars took part, to support his view.

"I should not say this but in India only one sport is given wide support by corporates, media, fans. A sport like ours - having 28 world titles and so many Asian titles - lacks support.

"There are so many write-ups about the IPL, but there`s very little coverage in the newspapers for this tournament here which is among the biggest in the country having players from all over India apart from a professional (Mehta) who has come all the way from London to play in it."

He is also hurt that his employers Railways have changed their promotion policy for sports.

"Unfortunately our game is not in the Olympics. I should not say this, but Railways are now saying a world no 3 is not considered for promotion, only an Olympic medal is. Now people are happy to join Railways and be a TC (Ticket Checker) rather than be in sports," he remarked.