New Delhi: Eight-time world champion Pankaj Advani and World Games gold medallist Aditya Mehta on Thursday hoped that snooker would be able to emulate the success of billiards in the country and add to its rich tradition when the World Snooker Indian Open kicks off here from next month.
"We have a long and rich tradition of billiards in our country. But in snooker, we don`t have that tradition. The Indian Open is a dream come true for all of us and it will give a massive boost to the game of snooker in the country. With the hosting of this championship, we can say that snooker has a fantastic future in India," said Advani during a media interaction.
Aditya said he had never expected to compete at home in a Professional tournament against the top players of the world.
"This is fantastic for Indian snooker and honestly I did not imagine this day would come so soon in my career. It was a dream for us that a Pro tournament came to our nation and we will compete with the world`s best cueists. All the great players of Pro circuit will be coming for this tournament. We hope to be one amongst the world circuit`s showpiece events," he said.
A strong field of 64 players, headed by World No.1 Neil Robertson, besides top two Indians, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, promises a rich feast of snooker in the Indian Open World Ranking Championship to be held at Le Meridien hotel from October 14 to 18.
The only two Indians on the professional circuit, Advani and Aditya, made it to the main draw via the qualifying competition held at Doncaster, England in August.
India will be fielding six wild card entries besides the 64 cueists in the championship. The BSFI conducted two wild card qualifiers at Delhi and Bangalore from which Manan Chandra, Kamal Chawla, Faisal Khan, Sandeep Gulati, Shivam Arora and Dharminder Lily made the cut.
The field for the Indian Open is one of the strongest assembled in India which is hosting the championship for the first time.
Australian Robertson leads the pack of six players in the world top 10 including four-time world champion John Higgins, Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire and Ricky Walden.
China will have as many as seven competitors led by Ding Jinhui while Thailand is spearheaded by James Wattana.
Advani, who will be flying out to South Yorkshire this month to compete in the International Championship Qualifiers from September 30 to October 1 at Barnsley Metrodome, said the best-of-seven-frames knockout tournament throws the event wide open.
"Anyone can win on his day. I will be playing Marcus Campbell in the first round and he is a very experienced player. I have never played him before but I am confident of performing well in the tournament," he said.
Aditya, who has also received a tough first round draw in the form of former world champion Peter Ebdon, said: "I would be taking one match, one frame, one shot at a time. I am not entering the tournament as favourite but eventually the target is to win the championship. I have the experience of beating some of the top ranked players on the pro circuit."
Talking about fixing cases that has come to light in snooker recently after former world number five Stephen Lee was found guilty of throwing away seven snooker matches in 2008 and 2009, both Advani and Aditya said unanimously if anyone has done it, he should pay for it.
"It`s one of those things which is happening in every sport. The world body should ensure that it doesn`t happen in future and deal with it professionally. It`s sad for the game that Lee has been found guilty of fixing," said Aditya.
BSFI president Capt PVK Mohan said the game of snooker started in 1875 in Jabalpur, India and "it`s befitting that it is coming back to the country in the form of Indian Open".
"I am confident that the tournament will change the face of snooker in India," he said.
BSFI has signed a three year contract to stage the annual tournament with World Snooker which has a prize purse of pound 300,000 where the winner pockets pound 50,000.