Those who hark back to the golden era of snooker say today’s top players are somewhat lacking in personality. It’s arguably why both the media and fans of the green baize sport alike still hang on every word and tweet Ronnie O’Sullivan says and posts. Here’s a sobering thought: “The Rocket”, now in his 40s, is not the future of snooker anymore.
Selby success doesn’t get you off your seat
As thirty-something holder Mark Selby bids to become only the third potter in the modern era to win three or more consecutive World Snooker Championship crowns at The Crucible in Sheffield, does he really live up to his nickname, “The Jester from Leicester”? Probably not.
Unlike the consistent break-building and strong safety play that Selby brings to the baize in equal measure, charisma is not something you can be taught or have drilled into you via endless hours of practice. Selby is instead the product of the other archetypal snooker player – the consummate pro.
He’s the successor to Steve Davis and O’Sullivan contemporary Stephen Hendry in that he plays the toughest matchplay snooker to the highest level most often on the tour and is just one of six men to make over 500 century breaks, what Selby may be missing in characters is compensated for with results.
Who needs to be a snooker genius when you are one of just ten players to have completed the Triple Crown of your sport’s three most prestigious events? Selby is an eight-time winner of the trinity of top snooker tournaments: the UK Championship (twice), Masters and World Championship (three times apiece).
Trump and Ding need to deliver on promise
Bristol break-builder Judd Trump was the great hope to reinvigorate this sport and attract younger audiences to the baize. His brand of “Naughty Snooker” has only yielded a UK crown way back in 2011 among the premier events, however.
While Trump has shown mere flashes of style rather than Selby’s substance, the growth of snooker in China continues apace. The dual UK and one-time Masters winner Ding Junhui is the Far East’s finest export but even is still to truly fulfil his potential.
Could it be to Belgium and Luca Brecel who is in and around the top 16 of the snooker rankings that the future is entrusted to? He’s a long-term hope that needs to improve on his performances on the big stage.
A more professional sport
If the characters of the professional circuit during the 1970s and 80s – Dennis Taylor, Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins and Terry Griffiths to name but a few – are lacking, we have to ask why?
The answer may lie in the complexity and difficulty of snooker. Pursuing accurate potting, perfect cue control and sublime safety comes at a price; the rounding of those rougher edges we call character.
Pursuing accurate potting, perfect cue control and sublime safety comes at a price.
Evoking the era when this sport was played in smoke filled-auditoriums where players sunk pints between frames is tempting, but wishing for such nostalgia will do little good.
Snooker does need more characters in the modern game and personalities to match the skill of potting, but the demands on players looking to reach the top mean charisma is an optional extra.