THE HINDU - OCT 05, 2004

MUMBAI Oct. 5.

Cueists lined up to give Wilson Jones a final farewell at Shivaji Park here on Sunday.

Independent India's first World champion (he won the World amateur billiards title in 1958) had passed away the previous day at 81 due to health problems following a heart attack. He is survived by wife Peggy and son Christopher.


He left after inspiring generations of Indian cueists during his reign at the top of the world, hacking out a rough path for others to follow, by winning two World billiards amateur titles, a phenomenal eight century breaks in a two-hour session, apart from 10-time National billiards and five-time national snooker titles.


A grateful nation had honoured one of India's most humble champions with the Arjuna Award (1963) and Padma Shri (1966), after the second World crown in 1964.


One of the few Indian sporting achievers to gain in stature, popularity and respect post-retirement, he left a bigger imprint on cue-sport as a coach, passing on an incredible playing experience of eight World Championship appearances.


Jones was conferred with the Droncharya Award in 1996, a belated distinction for a humble great who was overlooked simply because he did not seek awards. Long before government recognition arrived, this legend had already completed a lifetime of silent, selfless service in moulding the nation's future World and Asian champions.


Wilson Jones touched the lives of Subhash Agrawal, Geet Sethi, Ashok Shandilya and Devendra Joshi, all of whom made a mark on world stage.


Other talents like Nalin Patel, Anuja Thakur, Kamal Tulshan and Amit Saboo were nurtured by this Dronacharya of the green baize.


Health and vision problems had forced him to reduce coaching assignments in the last couple of years, even affecting appearances at major cue events in Mumbai to check out development of numerous protégés.


Two former pupils recounted their experiences under Jones' tutelage. "Whatever I am today is because of him," observed Subhash Agrawal, ex-World champion.


Former world professional billiards winner Geet Sethi talked about the inspirational qualities of his coach's achievements. "The two World titles he won then served as an inspiration to all of us."


India's first World champion's legacy have done him proud, first by competing in the P. J. Hindu Gymkhana tournament on Saturday after becoming aware of his demise. The students then lined up the next morning to form an arch of cues over their teacher on his final journey.