The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wilson Jones passes away
- First Indian world champion was a great model for juniors, feels fellow-cueist Manoj Kothari

Calcutta, Oct. 4: Billiards ace Wilson Jones, India’s first individual world champion in any sport, died of protracted illness at his Worli residence in Mumbai on Saturday morning.

[A PTI report from Mumbai quoted family sources as saying that Jones, 81, “had suffered a paralytic stroke twice earlier and had suffered a third stroke, which had paralysed his right side completely.

“Jones had been admitted to the hospital around a month back and the end came at around 11 am.

He is survived by his wife and a son.

“As per his last wishes, we shall be cremating him instead of the usual burial,” the family source said. The cremation will take place at the Shivaji Park crematorium at 9.30 am on Sunday.]

Jones was a trend-setter, father figure and inspiration to many, igniting in them an hitherto unexpressed desire to rule the world, feels Manoj Kothari, who became India’s fourth world billiards champion after Jones, Michael Ferreira and Geet Sethi. According to him, the ace should be best showcased as India’s first individual champion in international arena.

“He brought India the first taste of being a world champion in 1958. Before that, our success was largely confined to Olympic hockey. In that way he was a trend-setter,” Kothari told The Telegraph, when contacted in Mumbai.

“His grit and determination was exemplary and inspiring… These are the qualities that went into making him a true champion,” Kothari recalled.

“But the best thing about him was his down-to-earth attitude and he backed the juniors to the hilt. Almost all the players who came to rule the roost in world snooker and billiards, have been pushed by Wilson,” the city-based player pointed out.

All the leading Indian players including Kothari, Ferreira and Sethi (except Pankaj Advani who is in England for training) are currently playing in an invitational tournament in Mumbai and the news of Jones’ death brought about a sense of “great loss” among the fraternity.

“The mood of the players here is quite sombre. We’ll go to the Sports Complex at 8 am and later Shivaji Park tomorrow to attend Wilson’s funeral,” maintained Kothari.

Kothari recalled an incident which “sums up the legend’s true character”. “When I became the world champion (in 1990), he wrote me a letter, congratulating me and also inviting me to Mumbai. There he treated me to lunch. I still cherished that meeting.

“In Calcutta, though I hadn’t had enough opportunity to get in touch with him, our meetings elsewhere helped me immensely,” Kothari maintained.

Meanwhile, on behalf of Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI), its secretary, C. Kapur later expressed his condolence at the death of the player, saying “India lost a truly great sportsperson”.

The Delhi Billiards and Snooker Association, on the other hand, has decided to dedicate its upcoming state championship, starting next month, in memory of the legend.

Born on May 2, 1922 in Pune, Jones marched his way to success despite his financial constraints. Jones hit the headlines after he won the World Amateur Billiards Championship in Calcutta in 1958.

He had to be content with the runner-up position in the next in Australia in 1962. But he regained it in 1964 in New Zealand. A 12-time national amateur billiards champion, Jones also won the national amateur snooker title five times.

He had a distinction to play an exhibition match before Queen Elizabeth in the Buckingham Palace in England in 1951. He also displayed his skills in front of India’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad in New Delhi.

Awarded ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in 1950, Jones was also honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1962 and Padmashri in 1965.

He also won the Dronacharya Award in 1996. After quitting the game in 1967, Jones gave everything he had in making champions like Subhash Agarwal, Ashok Shandilya, Devendra Joshi and many others.

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