Sunday, December 18, 2016
Wikipedia tells us that games played on a cloth covered table, using a cue stick to strike smooth balls, have been around since the 15th century CE, under the generic term 'billiards'. They evolved from outdoor games like croquet and bowls, and have diversified into a wide range that includes billiards, snooker, pool and several variations of each of these. Given that timeline, cue sports gained popularity in Madras fairly late. The following it his is neither very vocal nor very visible - but with my limited experience, that could be true of cue sports in most places in India.
Considering that Madras was the host to the first ever All India Amateur Billiards Tournament (in 1904), it is reasonable to expect the game to be a little more popular here than elsewhere in the country. However, for some reason, it is not so. I cannot recall any international - or national - billiards champion from Chennai. The same holds true for snooker; and that is even more galling, because that game is supposed to have originated in India. According to the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India, it was created in Ooty - and therefore in the Madras Presidency - in the year 1881. While that claim is contested, with the rival version having Jabalpur as the town and 1875 as the date, we shall in this case accept the version put out by BSFI.
The Tamil Nadu Billiards & Snooker Association, makes no such claim, however. Having been formed in 1981, a century after the birth of snooker, the TNBSA is more concerned with "controlling and guiding the game in the state", than with weighing in on historical claims. I am not sure what level of control they exercised during the early 1990s: there was a mini-boom in the game in the city, with snooker parlours being set up across the city and, for a brief while, being the to-be-seen-in places. Whatever they did, or did not, one wishes they would soon find themselves a better office space than in this nondescript building on Avvai Shanmugham Salai!