The dilemma facing Pankaj Advani has once again reared its head, with the fine Indian player agonising over whether to play snooker or billiards.
No one would claim it was an easy decision. No one did when this first arose two years ago, with tour rookie Advani then pulling out of the 2012 International Championship in Chengdu, the first venue he had reached, to win an eighth billiards world title in Leeds.
And the 29-year-old Advani now has similar clashes to contend with that could stop him playing in his home Indian Open in Mumbai in October. These clashes are obviously going to re-occur for as long as he is caught between the two stools and two sports.
One possibility being considered was that Advani, who though on tour and ranked 57 has not competed this season, could miss a qualifier, resign his WPBSA membership and procure a wild-card to the Mumbai tournament. Such an act might not be universally popular.
The lure of billiards for Advani is easy to see. He can stay at home where that sport reigns currently, there are no huge expenses travelling the world, he is the best and so wins most of his matches, and there is status and money to be picked up albeit not as much as for a successful professional snooker player.
Having spoken to him ahead of that 2012 Chengdu event and several times since, I must admit I had formed the impression that he was increasingly committed to the harder challenge of establishing himself on the snooker tour.
Advani was not only an excellent technician, he seemed a quick learner since there were many aspects he needed to add to his armoury to succeed in the 15-reds game. And he soon announced the decision to give snooker a proper go.
He became the first Indian player to reach the quarter-final of a major ranking tournament in Newport in 2013, getting to the last eight of the Welsh Open by impressively beating former world champions Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott at the venue.
There would be disappointment in the snooker community if Advani was lost to the game. Not only is he an excellent figurehead along with Aditya Mehta for Indian snooker at an exciting time for the sport’s development in that country.
But the quietly spoken and highly intelligent Advani is exactly the kind of ambassador that any sport needs.
Ultimately the player must do what is right for him and makes him happy. And a decision one way or the other will presumably have to be made, because further changes of mind will only in the medium or long term irritate promoters and governing bodies.
If Advani does decide to go back to billiards it will be a shame in several respects, not least because he had the ability to be a genuine force in snooker and we will not have seen the best of him given the inevitable time it would take to adapt to a very different game.
Mehta eclipsed Advani’s ranking-event run to the quarters by reaching the final in last year’s Indian Open, but the suspicion remains that his rival is the better player. He would certainly be a loss for all sorts of reasons if he called it a day.
Decisions are expected this week, with deadlines looming for Indian Open entry and tournament organisers both in Mumbai and Leeds anxious to know where they stand.
India’s Pankaj Advani has, as seemed likely from recent pronouncements, decided to hand in his snooker card. He will attempt to play in the Indian Open via a wildcard, and so will compete in the qualifiers for that card in Pune later in September.
The 29-year-old insisted that he wanted to continue to play both games and will take advantage of amateur and open events, but to all intents and purposes the decision appears to herald the end of any top-level snooker career.
Advani, who has won multiple world billiards titles, said: “Finally I have decided to play in the Indian wild card event and the World Billiards which happens immediately after. If I am playing an Indian wild card, I have to let go my professional tour card.
“I took this decision because I missed billiards and my family. I wouldn't have been able to play billiards if I am based in England for six months. My sole objective has been to excel in both sports not just in one, and that will be possible if I am based in India.
“I had good results in snooker. I enjoyed myself and learnt a lot - sportsmanship, the approach to the game, conditions - everything was top class and that's what I wanted - to improve as a player. I am glad I could achieve it in my own way.
“Maybe within the next three to four years I may go back, but not in the near future for sure. I will definitely go back to England and train. Letting go my professional card does not mean I am keeping England away. I will go two to three times there at least to train with top players and play in an open event.”
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker