World champions in individual sporting events are indeed rarity in the Indian context. That is precisely why the emergency of world champions from Indian is greeted with mass hysteria.
When billiards wonder kid Pankaj Advani beat nine times world champion Mike Russel of Qatar in the final of the World Professional Billiards Championship at Leeds, England on September 7, 2009, he instantly became the toast of the nation. With this, he became only the second Indian after Geet Sethi to win both the World Professional and the International billiards as well as the Snooker Federation's World Billiards titles.
Born in 1985, Advani's special talent became evident quite early, and he showed abundant promise of turning into a master of his craft in the future. He turned professional in 2003. Since then, his journey has been veritable saga of splendid achievements, he signalled his entry into the professional arena winning the title at the IBSF World Snooker Championship in 2003. After winning the IBSF World billiards Championship in Malta in 2005, he became only the second cueist to have won both the billiards and snooker world titles. Advani, who is the only player in history to have achieved a grand double of winning both the points and timed formats at the IBSF tournament in 2005, repeated the same feat at the 2008 championship held in Bengaluru as well Before he took the world by storm with surpassing excellence in his craft, he created quite a stir in the domestic circuit as well, winning the prestigious Indian Junior Billiards Championships for a number of years.
Advani's mesmerizing talent has been widely recognized by all and sundry, and he has been honored with a number of prestigious awards. He was bestowed the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honor, in 2009. He is proud recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, which was conferred on him in 2005-06. Besides, he was given the Rajiv Gandhi Award and the Arjuna Award in 2004.
The sports fraternity of India has been very much appreciative of Advani's stupendous exploits in billiards. He, in fact has become the apple of the eye for the Indian fans of the sport. Apart from etching India's name firmly in the world billiards scenario. Advani has also played a great role in popularizing the sport in the country, where seldom any other sport than cricket commands the people's collective attention. Viewed in this backdrop, Advani's feats are doubly creditworthy, because it is his marvelous achievements which have been the prime factor behind the soaring popularity of billiards, which, until recently, was an almost unheard of sport for common Indians.