“The Belgium Open final was one of my best matches ever."
Farakh Ajaib is a fabulous British Asian snooker player from Accrington town in Lancashire, England.
As a naturally talented snooker player of Pakistani origin, Farakh has ambitions to secure more titles after he becomes a professional snooker player.
Earlier in his snooker career, he made a 147 break and beat Belgium snooker sensation Luca Brecel from Belgium to win first major snooker tournament.
Finishing joint 7th in the Q School Ranking from 230 entries is a testimony of his ability.
2018 has been a successful year for Ajaib, competing in several ranking tournaments and winning the inaugural East Lancashire Open.
DESIblitz had an extensive chat with Farakh Ajaib about his snooker journey, career and lots more.
Family and Early Memories
Farakh Ajiab was born in Blackburn, Lancashire on February 03, 1991, to a working-class family.
Farakh’s dad, Muhammad Ajaib who is a butcher was from a small village near Jhelum, Pakistan. Whereas his mum, Yasmine Hussain is from the UK and was always a housewife.
Ajaib began playing snooker from a relatively young age, courtesy of a close friend. This, in fact, was the first time he held a cue in his hand. He recalls:
“It started when I was about 12-years old, playing at my mate’s house. He had a small 5ft table. Just got into it from there really.
“This was the first time I picked the cue up and just fell in love with the game ever since.”
At first, Farakh found snooker very difficult, but within a few weeks, he got the hang of it. He even beat his friend who he had been playing for quite a while. He was improving at a rate of knots.
When asked about how his friend felt when he beat him on the snooker table, Ajaib replied laughing:
“He was not happy, especially having played snooker for years in his house.”
From there on Farakh regularly headed to Accrington Snooker Club to play, practice and improve his snooker on a 12ft full-size table. His dad would drop him off every day after school.
From the age of 15 to 18 he spent most of his years playing at the Padiham Snooker Centre in Burnley.
Green Baize Journey
Paul Rinaldi former owner of Padiham Snooker Centre and a professional player who did not really make it big in the game was his first coach.
According to Farakh, Rinaldi was a huge help in improving his overall game – be it safety play, break, building, long potting stance and cue action.
In reply to a question about the one thing he did benefit from Rinaldi, Ajaib mentions:
“Well, he made me practice when I did not want to. He made sure that I put the time in.
“I was there at his club 4-5 hours a day, watching over me all the time.”
Talking about the one piece of advice that Rinaldi gave, Farakh says:
“The more practice you put in, the more the game will give you back.”
After Rinaldi sold Padiham Snooker Centre in 2010, Ajaib went to Preston’s Elite Snooker Club run by former world number thirty-four snooker player Shokat Ali.
Shokat was a big influence on Farakh, practising three times a week with him. This is when he saw a major improvement to his game.
For Farakh, this is the first time he got to practice and face a tough player like Ali. Farakh claims:
“As soon as he got one chance, he would finish the frame off.”
Ajaib did receive a proper drubbing off Ali, three times a week for a good six months. Then one day suddenly he got the better of Shokat and beat him.
In a cheeking manner, Farakh reveals how it was like returning the favour:
“I was very happy, especially as my dad was watching too.”
Ajaib beat Ali twice in a best of nine frames. He also beat ex-Elite co-owner and former professional player Stuart Pettman in one set of snooker.
Going to Lockston Hall’s Elite Snooker Club for 3-4 years and playing Ali and Pettman did help to develop his game.
From there he went to Oldham Snooker Academy run by Mohammad Nisar. Farakh had met Nisar previously at a tournament.
Ajaib spends most his time practising at Oldham Snooker Academy and Shokat’s club in Preston.
Following his introduction to snooker, before he knew it, Farakh was making breaks of 100 at the age of 15.
He made his first century break against former snooker coach at Padiham Snooker Centre. Potting a mixture of balls, Ajaib remembers the 100 break, saying:
“To make the 100, I just potted the pink. I did not even play for position as I just rolled it in.”
Farakh adds about how he was feeling post his maiden century break:
“I thought I made a century now, I can beat anyone. I became really confident and thought I was unbeatable for a while.”
After his century, he did not get another century for a couple of months. But then after getting his second, he was getting a couple a week.
His highest break outside tournament play is a 147, which came during a practice match win over Mark Boyd at Padiham. This ultimate break in snooker came at the age of 21.
Speaking about the realisation of a 147 and feeling the nerves, a modest Farkah said:
“As soon as I pot 10 reds and 10 blacks I started to get very nervous.”
“But I held my self very well together.”
“And then I got to the yellow and I was shaking like a leaf. Though I did manage to accomplish it at the end.”
On the path to this magical 147, reaching out for a tricky red alongside the right-hand side cushion, the 5ft 7 Farkah successfully pot the ball.
Ajaib talking about his emotions following the 147 continued: “As with my first-century break, I was over the moon.”
He attributes skill and a run of balls in completing the 147.
Until 2018, his highest break in a tournament was 140, making it at the Businessland Under-21 Series against former Englishman professional snooker player Lee Paige.
Winning the best of five-match 3-1, he made this excellent break in 2011.
Away from Snooker
During his early days in snooker, Farakh’s dad was very supportive. Besides dropping and picking him from snooker practice, he also did go and watch him play on the weekends when not working.
But soon Ajaib began working at his dad’s butcher shop for a few days, whilst still playing snooker. Then at the age of 22, Farakh’s uncle in Pakistan sadly left this world.
Thus his dad went to Pakistan and was back and forth every month. Farakh had to run the meat shop due to his father’s absence. This went on for about three years.
Apart from a playing in a league once or twice a week. from the age of 22 to 25, snooker did not feature in his life.
But this was clearly not enough to maintain the quality standard and strive to be the best.
Realising this, Ajaib did return to the game in mid-2017. Returning to snooker brought further good news.
On a personal front, Farakh got married also in 2017.
His British-born wife Halima Matlub Ajaib is a social worker who works for Blackburn council.
Since tying the knot, Halima has been very understanding with Farakh and snooker. She has been encouraging him to keep going and never moaned about the situation.
She has been kind and humble enough to even accompany and drive him to Q–School.
Being a responsible adult, Farakh is thriving on pressure and wants to deliver in snooker.
He is a sensible individual who continues to balance earning a livelihood and simultaneously keeping his snooker dreams alive.
Other than snooker, Ajaib manages a convenience store, which his dad and uncle purchased in 2016.
The first credible snooker title that Farakh won was the North West Under-16s. The four-event tournament was held in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Oldham.
Ajaib was crowned champion after finishing number one at the conclusion of all the events.
He then went onto win the North Lancastarian Group Under-18s, which also featured Paul Hunter (late).
His major tournament win came at the Under-21s Belgium Open in Genk, hammering 2017 China Championship winner Luca Brecel (Bel) 5-1.
Describing this as his best competitive match ever, Farakh explains:
“The Belgium Open final was one of my best matches ever
“I did not miss many balls or reds in the game.”
Farakh takes a lot of inspiration from this major win, especially as Brecel was almost guaranteed to become a professional by then.
Ajaib was triumphant at the 2018 East Lancashire Open following 5 rounds of competition.
The first two rounds were best of five, the quarter-finals and semi-finals were best of seven and the final best of nine frames.
He defeated Jack Daddy 5-3 in the final in front of packed audience at the Hoddlesdon Con Club.
Daddy was once one of the best young players around also playing and practising at the Padhium Snooker Centre.
But over the years, Farakh has surpassed him by quite a margin. If Ajaib is firing on all cylinders, Daddy does not have a chance.
Farakh went to Q School in May 2018 for a chance to earn a professional snooker tour card. At the end of Q School, he finished at number 8 in the rankings – more precisely joint 7th.
Participating in three events, Ajaib’s target was to finish in the semi-finals, but he narrowly missed out.
In the first event, he lost 4-1 in the last 64 to Hammad Miah.
After defeating former English snooker player Simon Bedford 4-2, he was on the receiving end in the last 32 losing by the same scoreline to Jamie Cope in the second event.
He was beaten by Fang Xiogman 4-3 from China in the third and final event, making a last 16 exit. It is rather unfortunate for Farakh he was one match off qualifying for the World Snooker tour.
Ajaib comments on how upset he was to miss out on a tour place revealing:
“I felt very emotional as I was fasting for the whole month too.”
With the matches taking place in Burton Upon Trent, Farakh was fasting and travelling two hours from his hometown to participate in Q School.
Regardless of his disappointment, Ajaib can still feature in ranking tournaments if any players on the main tour pull out. Basically, he is 8th in line to get an invite.
Farakh has been fortunate that Xiongman who is ahead of him in the rankings by one had not taken any invites in 2018.
Therefore, Ajaib has been able to participate across four ranking tournaments in 2018.
Farakh did not feature in the 2018 UK Snooker Championships, missing out by one as per Q School rankings. Barring Ajaib, six players got into the 2018 UK Championships.
Farakh will attempt Q School in 2019 to qualify for the main tour. Knowing the standard at Q School, Ajaib has a really good chance to earn a tour card.
Snooker is not like it was back in the 80s when a player could pay to become a professional. Players from the modern era have to grind it out and earn their place on the tour.
Farakh has taken part in five ranking tournaments during the 2018 season. All five matches were during the last 128 round.
He lost 4-1 to David Gilbert at the 2018 Riga Masters qualifiers. This was his first ever professional snooker match.
He had a few bits of bad luck during this match. He could have easily won the first three frames. But after going down 2-1, there was no way back for him.
His second game against Anthony Hamilton saw him suffer a 4-1 defeat at the Indian Open qualifiers. Had Ajaib shown even fifty-per cent of his game, he may have won this game.
Farakh told DESIblitz:
“After missing a few balls, I just thought it was going to be a hard game.”
“I had my chances and I just did not make the most of them.”
Like other sports, it can be difficult when you start missing a few balls and playing catch up. In this situation, when a player starts missing, the balls are never kind in return.
Losing 4-1 against Yuan Sijun, his Chinese opponent made a few breaks over 50 in the 2018 English Open. Similar to the Indian Open game, he also had opportunities with Juan Sijun.
He did not make the same errors as previous against Gilbert and Hamilton. But after getting in, Farakh did not score heavily. Even though Ajaib got chances, he did very little with them.
His highest break for a ranking tournament until 2018 was 78, coming against Ian Burns in the Northern Ireland Open.
In the first frame after getting a kick, it threw the black ball offline.
Following the miss, Burns made a century and had a firm grip on the match. Burns was at his best, beating Farakh comfortably 4-1.
Despite making three 50 plus breaks, he went down 5-2 to former World Champion Peter Ebdon in the first round of the German Masters 2019 qualifiers at the Barnsley Metrodome.
Ajaib once again had a very good chance to go 3- 1 up, but it was not meant to be. After the match, Ebdon did give some good advice to Farakh.
Despite not playing a match broadcast on TV, World Snooker did air his matches LIVE against Sijun, Burns and Ebdon.
Game and Cue
Farkah has a very classical stance like many of the top 16 players of snooker. When playing a shot, he takes his cue all the way back.
At a very young age, his long potting was the best around. It is still good, but he does miss a few here and there.
This is down to the time he took away from the game. Amongst the balls, he does score well and has good cue ball control.
Farakh acknowledges he needs to enhance, sharpen and master his safety game to compete with top snooker players around.
Snooker is about fractions and safety can play a big part in winning or losing a game.
Farakh normally practises using the rest and wants to develop consistency with this piece of snooker equipment.
Even though he can use an extension to his cue when playing a shot, Ajaib is confident enough to use the rest.
Hence when he needs to use a rest, he does pull it out.
Since November 2018, Farakh is using a cue made by Maximus Cues in Thailand. The Ultimate Shaft cue he had from the ages of 17 to 26 broke during a match at a club in Accrington.
When playing a shot he slightly miscued and his cue cracked by an inch. Consequently, he had to chop it off a little, making the cue smaller.
As a result, the cue did not play the same as before. Ajaib talks about this episode, mentioning:
“I was very gutted. I thought it would be ok once I got it fixed. But it was never the same.”
Whilst Farakh can adapt to a new cue, he thinks his old cue was very responsive and required less effort on a shot.
Since the cracking of his cue, Farakh has had four different ones, before settling with the Maximus Ultimate Shaft cue.
He bought his cue from Green Baize in Stockton-on Tees.
Ajaib is not a player who often asks the referee to clean the ball as he likes to get on with it. His average shot time is 17-18 seconds, which is good for a modern snooker game.
Ajaib tells DESIblitz his pace is quicker, especially when there is hardly any safety exchange:
“If you take away the safety battle, I would say I am about 15 seconds. I am quite fast.”
Watch Farakh Ajaib pot all the colours here:
With Ronnie O’Sullivan being a big inspiration to him when growing up, he likes to follow the genius.
Revealing what inspired him to O’Sullivan, Farakh comments:
“It is just his break building, it is so effortless. And he makes it look so easy.”
Farkah also admires the late Paul Hunter, a massive talent from Yorkshire. He was fortunate to play him at a local under-16s tournament.
After Farakh breaking off, Hunter made a 137 break to win the one frame exhibition match.
Ajaib is open to representing Pakistan at the Snooker World Cup. Farakh alongside professional snooker player Hamza Akbar will participate in the 2019 Pakistan nationals.
Ajaib’s ambitions include turning professional and play on television. Naturally, the eventual goal for Farakh is to win a ranking tournament.
With perseverance, Farakh Ajaib has the ability and skill to secure many more titles in the future.