India can be a snooker hub, says ex-champ Doherty

New Delhi: Former World champion Ken Doherty believes that snooker has the potential to grow in India to the same extent that it has done in China in recent years.

Irishman Doherty will be heading to New Delhi next week for the World Snooker India Open tournament which runs Oct 14-18. It is the first ever world ranking event in India.

“Hopefully, this is the first of many tournaments we will have there. India is where snooker was invented, so it’s high time that we went back there with a professional event."

“I really think that our sport can be successful there in the same way that is has in China. Ten years ago, we didn’t have any tournaments in China, and now we’ve got nine there this season,” said the 1997 World champion Doherty in a release Tuesday.

Doherty, no stranger to India having played in the amateur World snooker championship in Bangalore in 1987 and in a New Delhi tournament in 1997, had high praise for two of India’s leading players, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta who will be taking part in the forthcoming ranking event.

“We have a couple of very good Indian players on our tour now in Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, and they can be role models in the same way that Ding Junhui has been for the Chinese. They can inspire a new generation of young Indian players.”

The Dubliner has another connection to India as his wife Sarah has family in Southern India.

“I’ll be hoping for a bit of local support because of that!” said Doherty, who plays his opening match against Mike Dunn Tuesday, Oct 15.

“I’ll also have the Irish ambassador and some of his colleagues coming to watch me play so I’ll have plenty of encouragement. I’m really looking forward to this tournament and seeing more of India. My form hasn’t been great so far this season but I feel as if I could have a good run in this one.”

The £300,000 tournament at the Le Meridien Hotel in New Delhi will see 64 professional players bidding for the title, including the likes of John Higgins, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui.