Merchant's Musings # 3 ...


Desire Drives the Champion

  • Don't go into something to test the waters, go into things to make waves.

  • It sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents – Eric Hoffer.

  • Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.

Achievers thrive on passion. Their insatiable desire to excel is so great that it envelops their mind, transporting them into a world where nothing else exists, except their objective. In order to achieve their goal, they are willing to forgo a lot of what this world has to offer. Their obsession with their ultimate target clouds their senses, making everything else seem hazy and immaterial, but their purpose.


When a champion is going through such a stage in his life the world waits with bated breath, for the extra-ordinary is about to be unveiled by him/her. And then….the ease with which the final product is delivered, it appears that the outstanding performer was born to do just that. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mike Russell and even our very own Geet Sethi, to name a few legends, and all one can think of is the effortlessness with which they execute their art.  Each performance of theirs seems like it is played out to perfection, and even in their rare defeats the greatness of the artiste shines through. To the outside world they appear to be well-oiled machines going about their job with mechanical consistency.


All this was not achieved overnight and certainly not without the usual grind. We have all seen their grace and grandeur when going through an event and walking away with the winner’s cup, without breaking into a sweat. But what we have not seen is the blood, sweat and tears that oozed out of every pore of their body when they were toiling through day and night attempting to improve their yesterdays. What we did not see is the intense desire in their heart that fuels every act of theirs; the never-say-die attitude that pulled them through every exhausting day and the yearning in their eyes, every time the thought of the ultimate prize crossed their minds. That my friends, is what an athlete goes through before the world can label him a champion.


Most, if not all snooker players have heard of James Wattana, the Thailand wonder-boy who shot onto the scene like an Asian storm, who did more than just ruffle the feathers of the British dominated Snooker scene. ‘Thai-phoon’, as he was nick-named did not just take a flight out of Bangkok, challenged the Davises or the Hendrys of the world and go on to become World No. 3.


His entry was quite different. In fact the first time, I heard about this wonder-kid, it was at Hastings, UK, where I had gone to play the inaugural World Junior Championships. It was an open event then and all could participate. Wattana was a first round casualty, losing 0-3 to some English kid. When I went to meet him, he sat sulking in one corner, refusing to even pose for a photograph. We had a few meetings on the table after that, with honours shared, and we went on to become good friends.


However the Wattana of 1988 is who I wish to present in my story. Geet Sethi and your truly were representing India in the Sydney World Championship, 1988, which also happened to be my first World men’s event. Midway through the tournament, just before the knock-out stage, the organizers had arranged for a scenic Sydney Harbour cruise for all the players. For those of you who have not yet experienced it, it is a must-see.


From the 64 players in the draw, 63 were on board the cruise, including the hot favourite, Martin O’ Neil, who was representing UK. The man missing was none other than James Wattana. The story that did the rounds was that Wattana was unwell and could not make it.


The next day, on meeting Tom Moran, Wattana’s manager, guide and constant companion, I enquired as to why James could not make it. Tom replied, “We are here to win the tournament. James has been dreaming of this moment since the time he picked up his cue. Cruises can be done even after the event. And luckily, since all the players were away, James had the entire table to himself and he practiced for seven hours non-stop.”


Needless to add, Wattana’s aching desire to win paid dividends and he walked away with the title of World Champion in 1988.


And yes – Tom did take him for the Harbour Cruise as promised.


Success attained by great men

Was not achieved by sudden flight

For they, while their companions slept

Were toiling away in the night.



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Yasin Merchant

India's ace snooker player




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Last modified: Monday August 24, 2009 22:22:17 +0530