May 16, 2010

Thailand’s cueists dominate once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Thailand continued to dominate at the continental level with the duo of Issara Kachaiwong and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon making the local supporters proud in the PTT 26th Asian Snooker Championship 2010, concluding at the Maneechan Resort in Chanthaburi on May 15. A total of 39 cueists from 18 countries contested the big event.

Kachaiwong, a Chanthaburi native, provided the massive home crowd a lot of opportunities to cheer about as he overpowered Pakistan’s Mohammad Sajjad 7-3 in the final. It was his second title win, having earlier captured the crown four years ago.

Earlier in the day the teenaged Thirapongpaiboon had turned the tables on India’s veteran and two times champion, Yasin Merchant, in the playoff for the third place.

Kachaiwong will be returning to the lucrative Main Tour when the new season gets underway in the United Kingdom in August this year. He will be joining his compatriots Ratchapol Pu-Ob-Orm and Noppon Saengkham on the Tour but Thirapongpaiboon will have to wait for his turn.

Kachaiwong dashed Pakistan’s hopes of regaining the Asian title by knocking out Sajjad by toppling him with in the best of 13-frame final with the scores of 17-49, 78-15, 65-73, 40-94, 66-6, 43-64, 85-30, 81-1, 123-8, 120-1.

Sajjad, who became the first Pakistani to enter the final of the Asian Championship in 12 years, emulating the legendary Mohammad Yousuf, who had gone on to win the title in his hometown, Karachi, in 1998, had done well to contain his rampaging rival in the first half of the final which looked anybody’s game after being locked at 3-all.

But the local hero didn’t let the initiative slip once he regained it in the seventh frame. He clinched the next four frames on a trot to win the game quite comfortably in the end. He registered breaks of 78, 56, 81, 80 and 60 to demonstrate his prowess.

Sajjad, however, earned the honour of having recorded the highest break of the event. His break of 134 chalked up in the quarter-finals against Sittihead Sackbiang of Laos won him the award.

Kachaiwong was ecstatic with his triumph. "This is what I had been aiming for all this while. I had a forgettable season last year, but started spending more hours on the practice table since the start of the year. I was under a lot of pressure today, because I am eager to return to world professional circuit,” he remarked after recapturing the Asian title.

"I could have done better at the beginning and then I told myself: 'There are so many people at the venue and they are all here to see me.' That changed everything," he observed.

The enigmatic Sajjad also had no reason to feel disconsolate because it was quite an accomplishment on part of the youngster to have gone all the way to the final. With the kind of infrastructure or rather the lack of it in Pakistan it was in fact a miracle for him to have progressed that far.

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