Cue sports ace Mike Russell of England will be seen in action on the green baize in India after almost a decade-and-a-half at the Dr D Y Patil Vidyapeeth-IBSF World Billiards Championship which unfolds in Pune on August 20.
Russell, who now coaches in Qatar, last played in Ahmedabad in 1996, when he lost in the summit clash against Indian cue ace Geet Sethi.
The former nine-time World champion and Sethi loom as major hurdles in the aspirations of India's defending champion Pankaj Advani at the tournament, which carries a total prize pool of US $18,000.
Also in the fray in the championship, to be held at the PYC Gymkhana, which is split into the points and time format to crown two separate champions, are two-time winner Peter Gilchrist of Singapore, an Englishman by birth.
The 150-up points-format event, described as the ODIs of the three-ball game by former World champion Michael Ferreira, will start on August 20 and conclude on August 23, with 24 players in the fray split into four groups of six each in the preliminary phase.
This will be followed by the age-old Time format from the August 24 to 28, in which 20 cueists will participate.
The winners of both the formats will take home US $5,600.
Advani and Sethi, who have qualified for the billiards event at the upcoming Asian Games in Guangzhou in November, will fight it out in both formats along with compatriots Devendra Joshi, Ashok Shandilya, B Bhaskar, Dhruv Sitwala and Alok Kumar.
Two other Indians, Rupesh Shah and Sourav Kothari will play only in the Points format.
C Praput of Thailand, Kyaw Oo of Myanmar and England's Chris Shutt and Roxton Chapman are the other leading cueists taking part in the championship.
The winners are guaranteed a direct entry into the next World Championship expected to take place in New Zealand.
Ferreira, president of the hosting association, Billiards and Snooker Association of Maharashtra, said there will be an exhibition 'Test' on August 24 between India and Rest of the World that offers winner-take-all prize-money of US $2,000.
India will be represented by Advani, Sethi, Joshi and Shandilya while the Rest of the World team will comprise Russell, Gilchrist, Praput and Oo.
Ferreira said the championship will witness top quality billiards. The presence of three South Koreans shows how serious they are to excel in the green baize game ahead of hosting the Asiad in 2014, he added.
Asked about the absence of Pakistan players, Ferreira said it may be due to the current political situation between the two countries.
Joshi, who also in the organising committee, said in any case the cueists across the western border are more adept in snooker.
He also said the lure of a berth in the Asian Games team has been a big motivating factor for Sethi to come back into serious play after it seemed at one time he was about to quit the game.
The groups: Point format (Aug 20-23)
Group A: Andy Murray (Ireland), Nay Thway Oo (Myanmar), Geet Sethi (India), Mike Russell (England), Rupesh Shah (India) and Min Hu Baek (South Korea).
Group B: C Praput (Thailand), Ashok Shandilya (India), Sourav Kothari (India), Phil Mumford (England), Gary Oliver (New Zealand) and Shahuli Aslam (Sri Lanka).
Group C: Dhruv Sitwala (India), Kuaw Oo (Myanmar), Devendra Joshi (India), S Thawat (Thailand), Peter Gilchrist (Singapore) and Tae Joon Jung (South Korea).
Group D: Balachandra Bhaskar (India), Alok Kumar (India), Billy Bousfield (England), Pankaj Advani (India), Abdul Omar (Sri Lanka), Chul Ho Hwang (South Korea).
Aug 22: Pre-quarters and quarter-finals
Aug 23: Semis and final
Time format (Aug 24-28):
Group A: Nay Thway Oo (Myanmar), Andy Murray (Ireland), Ashok Shandilya (India), Pankaj Advani (India) and Phil Mumford (England).
Group B: Kuaw Oo (Myanmar), Tae Joon Jung (South Korea), Balachandra Bhaskar (India), Geet Sethi (India) and Alok Kumar (India).
Group C: Peter Gilchrist (Singapore), Min Hu Baek (South Korea), Dhruv Sitwala (India), Gary Oliver (New Zealand) and Billy Bousfield (England).
Group D: Devendra Joshi (India), Shahuli Aslam (Sri Lanka), Mike Russell (England), Abdul Omar (Sri Lanka) and Chul Ho Hwang (South Korea).
Aug 27: Semi-finals
Aug 28: Final.