Billiards and Snooker

Wilson Lionel Garton Jones

 

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Twice World Champion, 12 times National Billiards Champion and five times National Snooker Champion, Wilson Lionel Carton Jones was quite adept at playing marbles as a child. His other passion was peeping through the windows to watch his uncle play billiards because his age did not qualify him to enter the billiards room. He would not have imagined that one day he will be known as emperor of the game, earning the Arjuna Award in 1962, Padma Shri in 1965, Maharashtra Government's Gaurav Puraskar in 1990 and the Dronacharya Award in 1996.

Born at Pune in Maharashtra on 2 May 1922, Wilson Jones studied at the local Bishop High School and St. Vincent's High School before joining the War Service in 1939, He worked as Security Officer with Mazgaon Docks in Bombay from 1947 to 1950 and then joined the 'House of Vissanji' from where he retired as P.A. to the Chairman in 1989 With Vissanji himself an ardent lover of this green baize game, Jones had free access to the billiard table kept at Vissanji's sprawling villa at Nepean Sea Road.

Progressing rapidly, he won his first National title in 1950 defeating T.A. Selvaraj in the final. He repeated the feat next year too beating the same opponent. He trounced Chandra Hirjee to win the title in 1953 and it was Hirjee who was to remain his main rival till 1958. From 1950 to 1966, Jones remained Amateur Billiards Champion of India fur 12 years. His date with snooker had begun earlier in 1948 when he won the Amateur Snooker Championship of India for the first time. This was a crown he was four more years in 1952, 1954, 1958 and I960. He also won the State Championship for eight times and the State Snooker Championship six times.

His first attempt at the World title was in the World Amateur Billiards Championship held in Calcutta in 1951 but ended up last. The following year, he went to play in London but luck failed him again. It was tough going for him in London. Of the meager allowance of one pound a day, ten shilling went for board and lodging, leaving him with very little money to fend for himself. Undaunted, he nevertheless returned with the "Best Sportsman award. Two years later in Sydney, Wilson finished fourth in the round robin matches.

The big moment came to him in 1958 when he became the first Indian to win the coveted World Amateur Billiards Championship held at Great Eastern Hotel in Calcutta, He came third in the next World Championship held in England but had the satisfaction of chalking out a masterly break of 598.