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 Yasin Merchant  

Yasin Merchant's Odyssey as a Snooker Champion

“One thing at a time and that is done well, is the best of all rules, as many can tell, ”says snooker champion Yasin Merchant who derives monumental satisfaction while performing his duties as a businessman, or sharpening the snooker skills at Khar Gymkhana or while studying for the MBA course from Strathclyde University, UK.

Yasin Merchant at playYasin's forte lies in his ability to seize every inch of an opportunity, which propels him a peg above his contemporaries in India. Despite a protracted practice of less than couple of hours a day for only a week at Khar Gymkhana, Yasin was able to raise his game and quell the challenge of his fancied opponents in the National Championships. Yasin had tamed Alok Kumar of Punjab 7-2 in the final of the 67th Khel National snooker championships in Chennai in March 2001, and thus crowned himself as the national champion for third time in his glittering career of more than a decade. He had also won the prestigious Asian championships in 1989 before becoming the national champion in 1991 and 2000.

The 34-year-old Yasin is suave gentleman who has a flourishing business of premium and multipurpose castors at Mahal Industrial Estate, Andheri in Mumbai. Yasin is a workaholic person with admirable stamina and zest for life. He likes to read management books and the novels authored by famous writers like Sydney Sheldon and Jefffrey Archer. Yasin spoke to about his career as a snooker player. Excerpts from the interview...

Who inspired you to take snooker at the competitive level?

I had learnt the fundamental rules of snooker under the able guidance of my father at Islam Gymkhana. I also attribute my success to former seven-times national champion Shyam Shroff, who was blessed with immense knowledge of the game. I had met great players like Steve Davis of England who won the World Championships for six times in his career. Davis had a very calm and serene disposition and his commitment towards the game was incomparable. I have observed parallel qualities of positive attitude and unflinching dedication in almost all the great snooker players of the world. Great players like Davis are very stoic, as they always maintained a tight-upper lip which does not betray any thoughts or emotion.

How would you describe your achievements in the game?

Yasin MerchantThe victory at the Asian Championships in 1989 was the turning point of my career. I had struggled to deliver my best shot in the preliminary stages of the Championships. However, I returned to my best form after watching the English film 'Chariots of Fire' in the lobby of my hotel, which inspired me to win the Championships.

As I turned professional in 1992, I was not allowed to participate at the amateur circuit from 1992 to 1997. Hence, I wanted to prove the point that I had ability to win the national title again after I registered my first victory in National Championships in 1991. After a gap of nine years, the victory at the National Championships at Bangalore in 2000, came as a welcome relief.

Tell us about your victory in the National championships this year?

The victory at the National Championships in Chennai was more of a determined effort rather than mere display of skills. I also capitalized from my past experiences at the top level of the game. In one of the league games of the Championships, I had encountered a stiff challenge from former national champion VVS Moorthy. I was down by 3-1 but I held my nerves and proceeded to win the game 4-3 against Moorthy. I am thrilled at this victory because I had practiced for less than couple of hours a day for only a week before the tournament.

What are the essential qualities which contributes to the progress of a snooker player?

A player should have the inclination for the game and hunger to succeed. He should have the willingness to learn all the aspects of the game. Then comes the technique which requires the sacrifice of time and money. The encouragement of family and friends also plays a very important role in the development of a player.

Do you think snooker has also helped you to develop your personality?

Snooker has helped me to explore different horizons. I got the opportunity to meet and interact with people of diverse cultures and background which has certainly helped to develop my personality. I also believe that a player develops a certain degree of confidence after tasting success at the premier level. Last year, I was focussed as never before as I made a determined effort to win the National Championships. I always believe that one thing at a time, and that is done well, is the best of all rules, as many can tell. I am very ambitious and I love to keep myself gainfully occupied all the time.

How does your family react to your achievements as a snooker player?

My parents have been the pillar of support as they had always encouraged me in my pursuits as a snooker player. My wife literally pushes me for the regular practice sessions at Khar Gymkhana. She had absolutely no qualms nor complains even when I had to spend 4 months in England during my professional stint in the early part of my career.

In your opinion, who is the promising youngster at the national circuit?

I think youngsters like Pankaj Advani and Manan Chandra are very promising players. Pankaj is very young and he has a burning desire to excel at the top level. He is also very disciplined. Manan Chandra is also a good player and slightly even better than Pankaj at the moment. However, I feel that Pankaj has more potential than Manan to succeed in the long run.

Can you throw some light on the current scenario in snooker that prevails in our country?

The game of snooker has undergone drastic changes like the organized tournaments which tend to shrink in numerical strength these days. Generally, most of the players compete in the tournaments for only monetary gains. Thus, the motivation to prove your worth in terms of achievements to the world is marginal. The liquor and tobacco companies like Benzer and Hedges, Ragl, Embassy, etc, are the major sponsors of snooker. While taking into context the proposed ban on the tobacco advertisements, snooker is bound to decline in India. Snooker will not be able to retrieve its pristine glory, if the positive changes are not introduced immediately at the premier level of the game.

By: Wasim Siddiqui
Photographer: Vinayak Prabhu


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