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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Indian Master right on cue
BBC Sport Online's Pete Sanderson speaks exclusively to four-times World Billiards champion and world number two Geet Sethi about the rise of snooker in India.
In the haze of the smoke-filled Crucible Theatre press room, a legend with the cue sits quietly tapping away at his laptop.
As another day's play at the Embassy World Championship comes to a close, he packs his bag, says goodnight to his fellow journalists and strolls out of the Stage Door, ignored by the hundreds of autograph hunters waiting for Matthew Stevens to emerge.
Had The Crucible been in India the situation would have been remarkably different and Stevens would not have been able to move for the thousands of fans trying to get a peep at one of India's most famous sporting sons.
The legend in question is four-times World Billiards champion Geet Sethi.
Sethi, idolised by millions in his homeland, is regarded as one of the greatest billiards players of all time.
Not only has he compiled the highest break for 60 years with a superlative 1,276, he is also chronicled in the Guinness Book of Records for his achievements with the cue.
"I was the first amateur snooker player to score a maximum 147 at the Indian Open in 1988," admits the unassuming Sethi.
"But although I scored a maximum and got in the record books, I never properly made it as a professional snooker player - billiards was more my game."
Along with James Wattana, Sethi is regarded as a pioneer of the game in South East Asia and one of his biggest fans in his early years was former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"Gandhi inaugurated the world championship which I won in 1985 and came and actually played a shot on the table to announce the start of the tournament.
"That was a great moment for me and for the game because after that, it really took off in India and it was the first time we had live television coverage of billiards in the country."
So, why is Sethi at the current Embassy World Championship if he is not actually playing?
"I cover the competition as a journalist for The Hindu which is a national daily in India," said Sethi, who also runs his own business outside the game.
"I enjoy writing and obviously being competent at both snooker and billiards, I can do justice to the sport and the paper with my knowledge.
"I also have businesses outside the game because, like every sportsman, I am very conscious of the fact that I had to do something after my life in sport.
"In billiards it is hard to make too much money so you have to look elsewhere to earn my money.
"I have played the game for 25 years now and hopefully the business and the journalism will set me up for life after billiards."
But Sethi's exploits on the table were put into perspective in January, when the state of Gujarat was shaken by an earthquake.
"The entire city was shaking and my kids were sleeping upstairs. I picked them up and raced out.
"They kept saying to me 'what is happening dad, what is happening?'
"Fortunately we escaped injury but when I went to see the devastation there was not a single man-made structure standing within 100 miles of the epicentre.
"There was raw fear in everybody's eyes and a huge loss of life. Everyone was on the streets and no-one knew where to turn - it was devastating.
"When you go through an experience like that it leaves a psychological scar with you for months afterwards but we are just about coming to terms with it now," he added.
Sethi, still world number two in billiards and a quarter-finalist at the 2001 Billiards World Championship, will jet off home after the Embassy final to see his family before embarking on his next tournament - the UK Championship in November.
It is hard to predict how many Indian fans will follow him there, but one thing is for sure - he will be gunning for a record break of 1,277 points.
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