Merchant's Magical Moments ...


Those Magnificent Men and their Magical Moments!

Courtesy ALLSPORTS Magazine

Friends. On the very first day of 2009, we are starting a series for ten days where we will introduce you with the 10 most defining moments in Cue Sports identified by the Snooker Specialist - Yasin Merchant.


Introduction: The mysterious atmosphere is the first thing that hits you as you walk into the billiards hall of any gymkhana or club, or for that matter even a corner side parlour. The lush green top of the table, the multi coloured balls artistically placed upon the green canvas, and the continuous clicking sounds as the balls dance to the commands of the cueists – you could be pardoned for thinking that you have just walked into the realm of fantasy, where magic envelops the enchanted atmosphere, with a draw so magnetic, it keeps bringing you back over and over again.


Could you now imagine that this is where the legends of Billiards and Snooker spent endless hours perfecting their art, without taking their eye of the ultimate prize? It was the Numero Uno position that they yearned for, as nothing else would do.  Of course, after a few million hours of practice, you wouldn’t settle for anything but the best in terms of results.


1. Wilson Jones winning World title


Wilson Lionel Garton Jones was one such Indian who set a very high target for himself and to the joy of all Indians went on to achieve it, not once but twice. To be India’s first world champion in any sport is no mean feat, and Jones used the royal sport of Billiards to take India on to the world map in sports.  The year 1958 will certainly be an unforgettable year for any gentleman from India who has harboured dreams of being on top of the world. For he need not look any further than Wilson Jones for inspiration.


Hailing from a simple family, Jones brought Cue sports its first defining moment, when after a disastrous world championship the previous year, he showed commendable grit and fortitude to lift the world title in his very next attempt in 1958 at the Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta.

2. Mike was first to cross 1000 barrier


Jones started it all……and the legacy continued.  A young lad who answered to the name of Michael Joseph Ferreira went a few steps further than his predecessor and dominated the world scene with four world titles, accumulating a few unmatchable records en route.


Mike won his first world title in 1977, but the jaw dropping achievement which he would be most remembered for, would be his 1149 break in the National Championship in 1978. No other player, amateur or professional had ever crossed the 1000 barrier before this and Mike had just done the unthinkable. Ferreira at his best was pure poetry in motion and I have been fortunate enough to see him grounding opponents to dust with just his presence on the table.


3. Geet - a step ahead


If Ferreira was all aggression, then Geet Sethi, the next in line of the legacy, was artistry at its best. Since the 1982 Nationals, Sethi took over the mantle and went on to become India’s most successful Billiards player ever, and one of the finest the world has seen. Sethi’s mastery at the table was a delight to watch as he played the postman’s knock to perfection – a positional ploy which earned him a break of 1276, which under modern rules remained the world record for many years, only to be bettered now by an effort of 1346 in New Zealand from the cue of English-men Peter Gilchrist (Singapore).

4. CROWNING GLORY - A Complete Package


Given the option to choose my magical moment of Geet Sethi’s career, then without even batting an eyelid, I would rate his ‘147’ break in snooker as the CROWNING GLORY of his illustrious career.


Being a snooker player myself and having achieved it only once in practice, no body would be in a better position to pass judgment on the enormity of that magical figure, which stands unrivaled on Indian shores to date.



5. World Acknowledge INDIA in Snooker


Omprakash Bankelal Agarwal (OB to friends) was not the archetypal snooker player. Brash, in your face and full of beans, this young man had talent dripping from all parts of his body – of course whenever he did allow the talent to surface; for he was known as much for his talent, as his volatile behaviour, both on and off the table.


Terry Parsons, the defending champion from the previous year, would have slept well a day before the 1984 World Amateur finals, having seen his relatively unknown opponent from India. Little did he realize that this young, but cocksure man from Parel, Mumbai would be the reason of his nightmares for years to come.


With the score reading 7-7, and with an entire session to go, not many in the world would have the audacity to tell a legend like Steve Davis (six times world professional champion and the celebrity spectator of this world amateur final), that he would win the next four frames and take the trophy to India. OB said it and did it. The World Amateur title belonged to him now, and for all the aspiring snooker players in India, he was the inspiration that spoke to us in lucid terms, that there was life beyond Billiards.


6. Yasin Merchant - 89 triumph


Not many gave me a chance for the Asian title in 1989 and after losing the first match of the event 0-4, even I was desperate to go back home, leaving the tournament midway. Little did I know that two weeks later, I would be holding the winner’s cup to become the first Indian to be crowned Asian Snooker Champion. Fate had compelled me to stay on. Twelve years later I won the title again in 2001, but it was the ’89 triumph which I shall treasure all my life.



7. First Gold Medal for Snooker in Asian Games


The Asian Games gold medal at Busan 2002, which I won along with Rafath Habib, could not duplicate the elation that I had experienced as the 22 year old winning the Asian Championship, but it did come pretty close. Winning India its first gold medal at the Asian Games and snooker’s first and only gold medal will definitely rank very high in my register of golden moments


8. Ashok Shandilya - Superlative Show


The burly Ashok Shandilya did not disappoint his coach Wilson Jones’ confidence in his ability.  His superlative show at the 1998 Asian Games where he comprehensively outshone every other participant shall remain etched in every sports fan’s memory for a long time. His winning the doubles gold medal partnering Geet Sethi was only bettered by his own individual single gold.  This catapulted him into the league of champions



9. First World Title to Shandilya


Winning a world title is every player’s dream and Shandilya was fortunate to live out that dream of his, when he captured the time format IBSF world title in 2002, firmly cementing his spot as a top rung performer on the Billiards circuit.

10. Birth of a Genius - Pankaj Advani


JiangMen city; China. Pankaj Advani decided to write his destiny in this very city. In an epic final, the 18 year old Pankaj Advani, got the measure of Pakistan’s Saleh Mohammad to transport the world of snooker to a state of frenzy, for he had just crowned himself  the new world amateur snooker champion of 2003. When people were beginning to write off India’s chances in World Snooker, Pankaj has brought in renewed hope. This would be my no. 1 magical moment, for, whilst watching the finals in person, I had witnessed the birth of a genius.






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Last modified: Monday August 24, 2009 22:26:57 +0530