Rupesh searches for world champion form

Even though he had beaten Dhavaj Haria comfortably with a 3-1 scoreline in the selection trials for the Asian Billiards championships, Rupesh Shah's face was emotionless when he shook his opponent's hand. Shah was visibly frustrated at missing a couple of cannons in the third game of the match. For someone who had just won his second billiards world title a few months ago, this sort of play was unacceptable.

"I was getting angry because they were very simple shots and I was faltering quite often. Haria was an inexperienced opponent and a junior so it didn't make too much of a difference but I can't afford to play like this against the likes of Alok Kumar, B Bhaskar, or Peter Gilchrist. But yes, I am happy to have won both my matches comfortably and that helps maintain my confidence level," says Shah, who defeated Australian Matthew Bolton during the final of the World Championships (150-up format).

Haria, like 39-year-old Shah, is from Gujarat, but is far less experienced. Shah feels the need to mentor his junior colleague. "I take it as my duty to guide youngsters like Haria who have the potential to play at a higher level. He was too aggressive today and wasn't keeping his calm. Also while he was a child, his father came to me for guidance whether he should introduce his child to billiards. I taught him how to hold the cue and kick-started his career," he says.

In the recently concluded Nationals, Shah finished in the top three while fellow cueist and Asian champion Alok Kumar clinched the top spot. The Asian Championships at Indore permit India to field six entries as the host nation.

Alok Kumar is the only cueist who has made it to the final six, with the remaining seven players having to fight hard to see their names in the list. Shah looked in no mood to take things lightly. He won his first match comprehensively against B Bhaskar in straight games and dropped one game in the second. "You see this is a fast paced format where you need to score 100 points in each game. A small error can cost you a game. So I am being extra cautious and trying hard to play a fault-free game. Focus is key here because reaching a score of 100 is very easy for us, since we also play games of 400-500 points but at the same time, it doesn't take time for the opponent to run you over. The competition is really tough which helps in better preparation for the championships," says Shah.

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