Bengaluru: A moist-eyed Pankaj Advani's face encapsulated his emotions as the flag went up and the national anthem was played during the victory ceremony at the 2010 Asian Games. That lingering memory as well as several other nostalgic moments of other cue sports achievers like Geet Sethi, Alok Kumar, Aditya Mehta and Brijesh Damani can warm the cockles of any Indian heart.
But when 13 cueists from India leave for Incheon, South Korea, they, unfortunately, won't represent the Indian flag and they will have no nation's pride to play for. With the Indian Olympic Association being provisionally suspended by the International Olympic Committee, the players will compete at the Asian Indoor Games under the Olympic Council of Asia banner and will not be allowed to sport the Indian tri-colour or use `India' on their attire. In the event of an Indian winning a medal, instead of the national anthem the Olympic charter will be played out.
Heart-breaking moments, really but one that has been foisted upon us.
The team which comprises the multi-faceted 44-yearold Alok Kumar to teen prodigy Keerath Bhandaal will play for personal pride and though they may not have India on their shirts, their identities are obvious.
Aditya Mehta, the 27year-old snooker pro, who won a team snooker gold at the previous edition of the Games in Vietnam said, “Frankly, it won't make much of a difference to me.
Of course when a player makes it to the podium and the national anthem is not played, we are bound to feel bad, but then, we may not be officially representing India, but that's our nationality and we will be known as Indians wherever we go. The situation is a resultant of politics in sport and not the sport.“
On the other hand, Alok, a veteran, who won a team silver in the billiards event at the 2007 Games in Macau, is all but excited about the Games.
Alok, who on Saturday lost in the semifinals at the Australian Open billiards event in Melbourne said, “Having represented the country for over two decades it's a very different feeling, in fact I'm not even excited about playing this time. In fact, a couple of days ago I even wrote to the federation saying I wasn't very keen on playing. Games like these are all about playing for the country and when that does not happen, it's very disheartening.”
The team also comprises four women, of whom Keerath, the youngest at 16, will be participating in her maiden multi-discipline event.
The Delhi lass, who is the reigning national junior billiards and snooker champion said, “It would have been nice if we could have represented the country. Now it's more a chance for me to go out there and get international exposure.”