Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002
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Billiards & Snooker
By Kirti Patil
REASON TO SMILE: Anuja Thakur (left) of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu's Vidya Pillai proudly display the trophies won at the National Billiards and Snooker championships at Jammu. Anuja won the billiards title for women on Friday last and Vidya was triumphant in the billiards event on Monday night. Photo: Parveen
The odds were staked heavily against Vidya Pillai, but it was the Tamil Nadu model who put her name among the pantheon of women's snooker in India.
As the night grew darker by the minute, Vidya and R. Uma Devi spent hours under the glare of halogen lights to decide who takes the second crown on the green baize at the Hari Niwas Palace here.
Vidya made amends for her earlier failures by hanging on till the end, winning 56-34, 64-53, 34-64, 41-50, 82-43 in a marathon four-and-a-half hour final of the 11th women's National snooker tournament on Monday night.
On a day packed with the quarterfinals, semifinals and final, the schedule stretched the players to the maximum. Vidya had already taken more than four hours to get past Maharashtra's Neeta Sanghvi in her semifinal, throwing the evening programme out of gear.
The final was scheduled to start at six in the evening, but given the circumstances it was only at 7.10 that the summit clash began.
At least, after going through such an ordeal, one hopes that the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) would become wiser. A top official of the BSFI told The Hindu that it was time to introduce the time-limit, at least in women's snooker. Most of the women cueists are tediously slow. Obviously, imagination runs short and only a few are willing to experiment.
If Vidya based her game on her potting expertise, Uma relied on her vast experience. Uma, the runner-up at the last National, was expected to make up for that loss. At Ahmedabad, she had no answer to a vastly-superior Varsha Majmudar, a Singapore-based sports commentator.
Varsha still remains the only Indian woman cueist to play in top league events in Europe. Her decision not to defend her title had left the field wide open here. And, how wide it was!
Unlike other sports though snooker is regarded as an elite game cue sport hardly offers any financial returns. It is only the prestige of becoming the National champion that takes cueists to all parts of the country, every year.
At first, Vidya hadn't decided about participating in the Jammu Nationals. Under intense pressure from the Billiards and Snooker Players' Association (BSPA), she was planning to skip the event like many other players.
Having been trained by a qualified coach, Vidya justified her hard work and the money spent by clinching the National crown.
The final between Vidya and Uma still hung in the balance as midnight approached. Vidya had taken the lead, winning the first two frames.
She won the first thanks to a break of 23, in which she had a black, black, blue combination.
She held on to the handy lead before taking the frame. The second was a close call, but a brown, blue, pink clearance gave her a 2-0 advantage.
Drawing from her experience, Uma fought bravely. The Karnataka woman was shaky at the start, but her resolve to continue until the last ball is potted, brought her back into the match.
Having lost the second frame by just a 11-point margin, Uma charged herself up. She kept adding points even as Vidya struggled with her potting.
Uma took the third and it was again a wafer-thin margin in the fourth before she cleared the pink to clinch the frame by nine points.
As the frames stood level 2-2, it looked as if Uma would finally break the jinx of not winning a snooker title.
On the hill which houses the Hari Palace, night grew darker and chillier.
It was 15 minutes to 11 when Uma evened things out. The best-of-five-frame match had reached a lively stage with the only regret being the slowness of the contest.
Vidya gave herself another chance by taking a huge 42-0 lead. She first made another break of 23 a black, pink, black combination. She followed it up with a 16 through a blending of black-black.
When just coloured balls remained on the table, Uma's hopes of closing the gap rested only on the snooks. She tried hard but had to give up.
Final: Vidya Pillai (TN) bt R. Uma Devi (Kar) 56-34, 64-53, 34-64, 41-50, 82-43.
Third place play-off: M. Chitra (Kar) bt Neeta Sanghvi (Mah) 48016, 29-55, 67-42.
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