Saturday, October 10, 2009

A sport snookered by too much talent

So it seems snooker is back for the new season, with the Grand Prix currently taking place in Glasgow. Although I won't hear a word said against the game (it's a matter of national self-interest as much as anything - what else do we regularly excel in?), it always strikes me that it suffers from an inbuilt problem that must be virtually unique in sport. In a nutshell, it's this - the more talented the players are, the duller the game becomes. OK, I appreciate that Pete Sampras winning seven Wimbledons out of eight, most of them in a canter, didn't exactly make for thrilling viewing, but that wasn't the fault of his ability - it was the lack of serious competition. Imagine how compelling a match between Sampras and Federer at their respective peaks could have been. But in snooker, the same principle does not apply. When you have two players showing their absolute top form, you in fact have the perfect recipe for tedium. The cue-ball under perfect control, no difficult pots. Not for nothing was the most exciting break in the sport's history - Alex Higgins' impossible clearance against Jimmy White in 1982 - described as "the worst break I've ever seen". Higgins only needed to pull out the outrageous pots because he kept running hopelessly out of position.

So in looking to secure a bright future for the game, perhaps World Snooker should focus slightly less on superficial things like relaxed dress codes and round robin formats, and instead reflect on whether the fundamental rules of the game can be modernised. Increasing the size of the table might be the simplest solution.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting point James. Perhaps rather than increasing the size of the table, they could make the pockets smaller. I have thought for a while that the pockets may be slightly too large, and reducing the size of the pockets is surely an easy way to greatly increase the challenge.