Merchant's Musings # 2 ...


Commitment 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.

Tenacity, 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 his stay.


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 patiently.


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 People’s Champion).


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.


Steve Davis’s 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 obligations’.


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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Yasin Merchant

India's ace snooker player




Rights reserved with Cue Sports India
Last modified: Monday August 24, 2009 22:20:57 +0530