Karnataka’s Bhaskar Balachandra has maintained a fine balancing act in his life between his role as a Billiards player and running his family business of silk sarees.
However, on Monday, it was all about taking care of business on the billiards table as the 52-year-old defeated Maharashtra’s Rohan Jambusaria 3-1 in the Men’s Billiards 100up format to clinch the Gold Medal at the 37th National Games at the Peddem Indoor Stadium.
Billiards and Snooker is making its competitive debut at the National Games as it was only a demonstration sport back at the 1997 Games in Bengaluru (then Bangalore). Bhaskar had then won the bronze medal with Ashok Shandilya and Geet Sethi winning gold and silver respectively.
Bhaskar credits his longevity in the game to the rigorous fitness regimen he has followed over the years.
“At the peak of my career as a sportsman, I would run 5-6 kms every day, followed by a 3-hour-long solo practice session. Then a couple of hours were dedicated to sparring with my practice partners. Running, Yoga and regular practice is a must to keep yourself fresh throughout the day.”
“The match schedules are so cramped in the Billiards and Snooker calendar that you have to commit 10-12 hours of playing in a single day. You need to be sharp and fresh as you go higher and keep winning matches.”
Now, Bhaskar cannot give the same amount of time to the sport as his priority at present is to grow his business. But he continues to work on his fitness, spending almost three hours a day for training and practice.
“Despite all the training that goes behind winning a National Games medal, I have never really considered myself a full-time professional player as I have to juggle between my work and my game,” he said, adding that he is just happy that many young children are taking up the sport.
“There’s a spike in the growth of this sport at the local club level in tier 1 and tier 2 cities of the country. Earlier, you had to be the part of some prestigious club to play the game, but now, the trend of local Snooker and Billiards clubs has made this sport accessible to everyone. This will be beneficial to churn out more professional players at the elite level,” he added.
Billiards and Snooker definitely got a boost when Public Sector companies started recruiting cue sports players in 2003. But Bhaskar believes that a lot more needs to be done as only 5-10% players get jobs and play the sport professionally.
“We need a huge boost from the government and all stakeholders for more growth in Billiards and Snooker so that people can make a career in it,” he added.