The official World Billiards Championship is steeped in a rich and colourful history with roots dating back to as far as 1825 when Edwin Kentfield was declared as the first champion.
Throughout the different generations, greats of the three-ball game from both sides of the world – and in between – have lifted the trophy. Rules, venues, formats and faces may have changed, but one constant remains; that the championship is still the most prestigious in the sport – the one that everybody wants to win.
Last October at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, India’s Sourav Kothari etched his name to that list of legends and followed in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Geet Sethi and Pankaj Advani as having conquered the title.
After navigating his group and the early knockout rounds, Kothari dethroned defending champion David Causier in a semi-final classic. At one stage appearing to be down and out when trailing by 500 points, Kothari mustered an epic recovery to dramatically oust his opponent in the dying minutes of the match and gain a measure of revenge after losing to him in the final of the short format event the year before.
Nearly six months on, Kothari looks back at the proudest moment of his career:
“The win against Causier was quite miraculous. I was 500-odd points down against him, but the only ray of light I could see was the fact that I was at the table on a 90-odd break at the mid-session interval. I told myself that if I could convert this into a 250 plus break, I had a slim chance to make a comeback. I made a 338 break in the second session which was perhaps the game changer.”
Things didn’t get easier for Kothari as awaiting him in the final was former three-time winner Peter Gilchrist. However, a 1134-944 victory in the five-hour match meant the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition for the Kolkata cueist, who first fell in the love with the sport when just four-years-old after watching his father practice.
Indeed, no-one was prouder of Kothari’s success than his father, Manoj, who himself became a national hero in 1990 when he claimed the world championship at amateur level.
“It’s a huge monkey off my back. More than anything else, to accomplish the childhood dream of emulating my father someday still seems quite unreal. However, I cannot take the credit for this victory alone.
“My parents have sacrificed more than I can ever imagine to keep me going. My father has tirelessly helped me and worked on my game, ingraining in me the importance of hard work and discipline as the one and only means to achieve goals. His deep knowledge of Billiards and top-table play has truly helped me a lot over the years. My company ONGC has been the back-bone of the support system.
“I am extremely proud to carry forward the legacy of Indian champions, and of course, to have done justice to the aspirations of my coach and mentor – my father.”
Immediately after the championship, Kothari received a hero’s welcome back home in India. Revered amongst his peers, he has been given warm congratulations and recognition of his achievement.
“The feeling back home has been great; the father-son duo being world champions 28 years apart has naturally been a talking point.
“The enthusiasm from my family, friends and the media has been brilliant, and I was given a resounding welcome at the airport upon my arrival from England. There have been felicitations from various social and business organisations, as well as social clubs in my city of Kolkata. The Honorable Chief Minister of my State, West Bengal, Smt. Mamata Banerjee also conferred upon me the ‘Special Award for Outstanding Sports Achievement’ in a glittering ceremony during the annual sports day at the Netaji Indoor Stadium last January.”
Last month, World Billiards released news that the 2019 World Championship will be changing direction and heading to the plush surroundings of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria in the centre of Melbourne, Australia.
It was 85 years ago that the competition was held for the first time in the country – also in Melbourne – when Australian Walter Lindrum pleased home support by defending the title against fellow legendary cueist Joe Davis.
Reigning champion Kothari will be making the trip ‘Down Under’ and believes that the event will be a success:
“Leeds had become like a ritual for all of us every year in the month of October so obviously it will be missed, but I absolutely agree with the event being staged in Australia; Melbourne is such a fabulous city. I will be going to defend the title.
“Jason Colebrook, his team and World Billiards Limited are all doing their best to promote the sport across the globe.”
The RACV Club trip will also incorporate the curtain-raising World Open (6-7 October) with the five-day World Billiards Championship taking place from 8-12 October.