KARACHI, Oct 28: Pakistan’s most gifted snooker star Saleh Mohammad, received a warm welcome at the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport on Monday night after returning from Jingmen City (China) where he reached the final of the world amateur snooker championship in style, only to stumble at the last hurdle against India’s 21-year-old Pankaj Advani 11-6, after winning 14 consecutive matches in a row.
Ali Asghar Valika, President of the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) along with other officials of the Association, dozens of snooker players from various clubs in the city and hundreds of snooker fans were on hand at the airport to receive Saleh, team-mate Khurram Agha Pakistan No. 1 and manager Yousuf Suleman.
Senior officials of the PBSA Tahir Dada, Shahnawaz Khan, Aspi Mavalwala and Arif Taherbhoy were also present to greet the new World No.2.
Saleh who resides in Peshawar, expressed his disappointment over his not winning the crown after being the only player in the tournament to reach the final with an unblemished record.
He told Dawn that in the final, he took a flying 2-0 start against his Indian opponent and was on his way to victory in the third, when Pankaj fought back to cut down the deficit 1-2 and then draw abreast 2-2, after grabbing the fourth frame.
Saleh said he then went ahead 3-2 only to see the Indian cueist on even keel again at 3-3 and soon race ahead 5-3 before Saleh managed to draw back on level terms 5-5 at the interval.
After the break Pankaj took the next two frames to race ahead 7-5. Saleh clawed his way closer 6-7 only to see his Indian opponent race ahead 8-6 with a blistering break of 135.
Saleh said he then made a break of 68 in the 15th frame but his chance of winning the frame and coming closer 7-8 took a turn for the worse after Pankaj came through with a clearance of 70.
On the winning trail 9-6, Pankaj now in the driving seat snatched the next two frames and a sterling 11-6 victory.
Saleh praised his young opponent Pankaj saying that the best player on that vital Monday morning won the world trophy.
He admitted that the presence of Michael Ferreira, former world billiard champion and coach of the Indian contingent played a vital role in helping Pankaj win the world championship. Saleh said that Pakistan is now considered a front ranked snooker playing country in the world and called upon the Government and the establishment to build a Snooker Complex for further development and uplift of the game in the country. Saleh also stressed that a foreign coach should be hired to teach the skill of the game to the budding youngsters in the country.
The following is Saleh’s progress to the final.
Saleh bt Tim English (Wales) 4-3. Saleh bt Taurig Samsodien (South Africa) 4-0. Saleh bt Mei Xiwen (China) 4-2. Saleh bt Balazs Hamori (Hungary) 4-0. Saleh bt Alan Lin Tang Chi (Hong Kong) 4-3. Saleh bt Roy Stolk (Netherlands) 4-1. Saleh bt Amarjargal (Mongolia) 4-0. Saleh bt James Misfud (Australia) 4-2. Saleh bt Po Hsien Lee (China Taipei) 4-1 and topped his pool. Last 32: Saleh beat Martin Mcrudden (Ireland) 5-3. Pre-quarterfinals: Saleh beat Issara Kachaiwong (Thailand) 5-1.
Saleh beat Liang Wenbo (China) 6-1.
Saleh beat Mark Allen (Northern Ireland) 8-5.
Saleh lost to Pankaj Advani (India) 6-11.