is the key to success
The more you sweat in practice, the less you
bleed in battle. ~Author Unknown
The more I practice, the luckier I get. ~Jerry Barber, about golf
The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.
Doggedness, Fortitude, Commitment – words which seem right out of a dictionary
for many ordinary mortals. But ask an achiever and he would stake rights to all
of the above words. Champions are not made of supernatural stuff – it’s just
that they have taken the plunge and work tirelessly towards their goal. En route
they encounter impediments, but they march on, taking in their strides their
victories and failures. A common trait amongst legendary champions - they toil
for hours honing their talent.
Let me narrow down
the discussion and talk about the merits of unrelenting practice with regards to
Cue sports. But before I move further, let me relate an interesting episode
which adds weight to my thoughts and exposes the mind of a champion.
The year was 1992.
I had just turned professional and was really excited about going to snooker
country (UK) and mingling with the who’s who of the game. A particular gentleman
that I wanted to renew ties with was none other than Steve Davis, Mr. Snooker
himself, and Six times World Professional Champion. Just a year earlier, during
the infamous 555 invitational snooker event at Delhi, I was fortunate to be
introduced to him and had more than an occasional interaction with him during
Fast forward to
Blackpool in 1992. By virtue of my winning 11 rounds in my first season, I had
qualified to join the main draw of an event where the top 32 ranked players
joined the qualifiers.
A day before the
match, during the practice sessions, to my surprise I saw Steve Davis’ name
written just below mine for practice on the same table. Having wrapped up my
practice in eager anticipation of meeting the legend again, and also the pride
of introducing him to a friend who had accompanied me to Black pool, I waited
In walked the 6’4”
tall gentleman escorted by his father, who aided him in every practice session.
Steve looked at me and to my horror, looked through me. I offered a sheepish
smile of recognition, but got just a glazed look in return. So much for the
stories of the humility of the man. I turned to my friend in despair and
embarrassment, feeling just a wee bit miniaturised in stature.
Whilst all this
drama unfolded on this table, there was a hustle around the arena and chants of
Hi, Jimmy, Hi John – Hi Barry, Hi Neal…. filled the air. The New People’s
Champion, Jimmy White had just graced the venue. (Alex Higgins was the original
Returning to my
story of anguish, despite the discomfiture, I stayed back for over an hour to
watch the legend improving his already perfected technique with various practice
routines and exercises. With his scheduled time now ending, I got up to walk
away, only to hear ‘Hey Yasin – would you like to join me for a cup of tea?’
I almost tripped
over my own feet as I turned around to see Steve Davis addressing me. ‘But I
assumed that you had not recognised me’, I blurted out almost apologetically.
‘Don’t be daft; of course I did recognise you. Come let’s talk over tea’. I
followed Steve, baffled about the sequence of events, at the same time curious
to read the mind of this marvel.
explanation: (not his exact words but similar in meaning to) ………’my
practice time is sacred and limited. If I squander it away in social
interaction, then I am not doing justice to my profession, my self and the
spectators, who having paid to watch good snooker, expect to be rewarded with a
quality performance. I can only try and provide them and myself with a good
display of snooker, but for that I need to keep constantly working on my skills.
Once the serious business of match preparation is over, or the tournament itself
is over for me, then I have all the time in the world to fulfil all social
We spoke for
almost two hours after that and I attempted to extract every detail about the
magic behind this super achiever. And let me also mention that Davis won that
tournament and Jimmy White was eliminated in the 2nd round. Moral of
the story - Davis was preparing to win the tournament and White was just there
to make up the numbers. Or, so it appeared.
When it comes to
practising long hours to stay in shape, many of us find excuses and reasons to
avoid the tortuous act of dedicated practice. Probably out of laziness, social
commitments and/or complacency we skip our practice sessions and then blame the
conditions, luck, or even the weather when results do not go our way in matches.
Michael Ferreira, India’s world Billiards Champion many times over and the
former National Coach, once said to me –
Inconsistent practice leads to inconsistent results.
My advice to the
aspiring champions of Indian Snooker and Billiards is to cast everything aside
and practise as if your very existence depended on it. If you have the skill and
the will, then only practice will trigger your growth. Talk to a knowledgeable
player and take advice as to what and how one should practice. If you are not
making headway, then you need to do something different to progress. Just
working hard doesn’t help, working smart does.
If you keep doing what you always did
You will keep getting what you always got.
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India's ace snooker player