Sourav Kothari at
Hindusthan Club. Picture by Rashbehari Das
He has been on a golden streak reaching four of the last five finals (till Monday) he has played with two wins under his belt. And now with a direct entry to the World Billiards Championship, Sourav Kothari is looking to better his last year’s bronze. A t2 chat with the 27-year-old brand ambassador for sports at ONGC...
When did you get to know about your direct entry into World Billiards Championship (at Leeds from October 18-28)?
Just about a week back. It is huge... it is prestigious. I was expecting it because I thought I deserved it, being World Number 3 last year. The first two players were Pankaj (Advani) and Mike (Russell) who were direct anyway. I don’t know why there was confusion but anyway, it is a good thing. You don’t want to play two-three qualifying rounds and go there five days early... I was actually relieved! I had got doubtful... hoga, nahin hoga... I was in Bombay playing and I called my dad (former World Billiards champion Manoj Kothari) and told him I got a direct entry. He was really happy! Anything related to sports or any good news, I think of my dad first.
This is the biggest show in billiards and the importance lies in the fact that performance in this tournament is what is considered for government awards like an Arjuna (Award) or a Padma Shri. And which sportsman doesn’t dream of getting a national award?
Surely, you are not playing only for awards...
I am not playing for awards, but I am playing to get known for something that I do well. I am playing to feel good about the way I play. I am playing to see my dad happy. I think at 54, his son being a world champion... I think nothing will give him more happiness.
How difficult is it preparing for a world championship?
Honestly, at the back of my mind, I am thinking, ‘What do I do?’ I am really upset! It is very tough to switch from snooker to billiards and when you know that you are playing a world championship. I can’t back out of the two snooker events (the East India Invitational Snooker at Hindusthan Club that ended on Tuesday and one in Gwalior from September 18-22) that I am playing before the World Billiards Championship.
I have been playing (snooker) well in the last four-five months. I don’t want to go to a tournament playing billiards and lose the snooker competitions and my self-confidence. If I want to win, I have to practise snooker, which means I cannot practise billiards.
And one month is not enough?
It is... but I want to put in more (effort)... but I am not too stressed. I am not a layman in billiards... I’ll manage. Professional stress doesn’t get to me. I’ll tell you what the worst form of stress is... emotional stress.
How are you gearing up for the tournament? How much would losing hurt you?
I am looking at five hours of practice every day apart from running. I run two-three km every day at The Tollygunge Club. Running is unbelievable! The only thing that made me win the bronze last year was running and, of course, sticking to a practice schedule, which my dad had set for me. Running really opens up your mind and helps you get rid of negative energy. I have also just got myself a yoga instructor.
A loss will hurt but it is not the end of life. It would hurt me a lot if I underperform. In the last one year, I have decided not to make any tournament a matter of life and death. Before, I wasn’t performing well and so there was pressure to win. Now I don’t have that pressure. I hope I can just be calm whether I win or lose.
What are you looking at improving?
I am looking at improving my all-round game... when the balls are all around the table.
What is the one thing that you will definitely pack in your kit?
I have a blue shirt that I wear. It is a little old now... almost a year old, but I always carry it.
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