Bengaluru: On the occasion of Teachers' Day, 19-time world billiards and snooker champion Pankaj Advani paid rich tributes to his coach Arvind Savur and urged all sportspersons to express their gratitude to those who have shaped their careers, not only on this special day but each and every day.

The 33-year-old Advani, who is already a legend in cue sports and continues to dominate the green baize, began his journey way back in 1996 under the care of Savur.

Describing his 22-year-old association with the Dronacharya Award winner as a “lovely relationship”, Advani, in an exclusive interview with MyNation, opened up on his “large-hearted” 76-year-old coach’s massive contribution to his career. He also revealed that the Bengaluru veteran has not charged a single rupee ever for his services.

MyNation: Tell us about your relationship with your coach Arvind Savur.

Pankaj Advani: I have never met a more large-hearted, generous, selfless person than Arvind uncle. He has been a coach, father-figure, philosopher and guide... everything to me. He is an excellent motivator also. Not only did he teach me the technical skills and tricks of the trade in billiards and snooker, he also motivated me to think big. One of his great qualities is the fact that he is a very positive person and a quick thinker. And that has rubbed off on me as well. It is a lovely relationship that we share because we gel really well. He keeps telling me, "You are one of my best students".

MN: When was the first time you met Savur?

Advani: My first meeting was way back in 1996, as an 11-year-old. I wanted to get trained only by him because I knew he was one of the best coaches, not only in the state (Karnataka), but in the country. I used to observe him play. One day I mustered up courage to go up to him and ask, "Uncle can you please coach me?" 

Actually he rejected me the first time, not because I was not ready, but because I was short. He told me, "It will affect your technique and hamper your progress." Few months later, in December 1996, he told me, "You are ready and now I will take you under my wing." That was the happiest day of my life. I was so excited. For one whole month I went to him. As soon as I went to him, my game improved tremendously. There was a drastic change almost instantly. That was the effect of his coaching and the influence he had on me as a player.

MN: What is one piece of Savur’s advice which you always remember?

Advani: There was an interesting thing that he told me. He said, "Whenever you are low on confidence, just stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself. Tell yourself, 'I am a very good player, I can be the best and I will be the best.'" As I said earlier, he is a very positive person and he boosts a player's self-esteem tremendously. I have always taken that advice seriously.

MN: You and Savur are both parts of the Karnataka State Billiards Association (KSBA) now, after winning the selections last month. He is the president and you are the joint secretary. How does it feel?

Advani: It is wonderful to have him by my side. Now we call him boss because he is the president of the KSBA. This is an association that he has seen since its inception and had helped to build it. He has done a lot for the game. He has now come back and has a chance to accomplish what he was unable to 20 years ago. That is why I am here to help him out. Obviously, not at the expense of my game, which I have made clear. It is wonderful to be with a person, who is so passionate about the game and wants to give back to the sport. Hopefully, we will take the game to a new level.

MN: What do you have to say to your coach on Teachers' Day?

Advani: Not only on Teachers' Day, but every day we must express our gratitude towards those who have shaped our lives, have had a major influence on us and have been selfless contributors to our lives. The people who have not only taught us about skills in a particular field, but also so much about life and how to deal with various situations. One more thing I want to mention about Arvind uncle — he has not charged a single penny till date for coaching me. You don't find such people in today's world, especially in a commercial world like ours where everything boils down to money. It is even more admirable. He is someone who is pure at heart and is selfless. I would like to tell every student to show gratitude and genuinely appreciate their coaches’ help.

Here is Advani’s tweet on Savur from the Teachers' Day last year