Every sport has players with individual strengths which are stronger than the abilities of their competitors. This uneven distribution adds an interesting factor to the sport, including Snooker.
In my personal view, below is a small gist of snooker players who are good (or maybe bad) at their thing.
Best Cue Action – Ronnie O’Sullivan | John Higgins | Barry Hawkins
Ronnie might be a very tough competitor out there but his cue action has a lot of delicacy in it. He gives equal importance to each and every shot. He doesn’t ‘hit’ the balls but rather ‘caresses’ the balls, according to famed snooker coach Barry Stark.
The sight of John Higgins cueing is an absolute delight to watch. Such poise, such gentleness and such accuracy. Even his cue action waggles remain the same for every shot.
I started watching a lot of Barry Hawkins after his Crucible encounter with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2013 Final. And boy, did he impress me. In one particular frame, he potted a red in the middle pocket from somewhere between the pink and the black, making it a difficult pot. The camera followed him from right behind his grip and there was such firm stillness in his delivery that he not just made the pot look so easy but also got prime position on the black. I’ve been following him closely ever since.
Shaun Murphy is a notable mention. And so is Stephen Lee. (I would love to see Stephen Lee back on the tour.)
Liang Wenbo has a very weird way of cueing. It feels hard to watch him get down on a shot and do his waggles. He arranges his head in a specific position, forcefully sticking it with his cue and eyeing the cue ball with utmost anger. He may not be but it looks that way. Want to improve your cue action? Do not follow the English Open 2016 winner.
Best Long Potter – Shaun Murphy
Have to give it to the Smurf here. His long potting is fantastic and very consistent. Helps him get out of trouble and win matches. Many top players sometimes struggle with their long potting and miss sitters but pot left and right on their good day. But how consistent you keep yourself on your bad day(s) is what, I feel, separates the best from the good.
Zhao Xintong is a notable mention. He’s potted many unbelievable long pots, with cue-ball dead on the cushion, in many matches and converted them into frame-winning opportunities. After he won a decider in the English Open 2016 against Zhao, Ronnie complimented him by saying that he will be ‘unplayable in the coming days’ and termed him a ‘future World Champion’. Barry Hawkins would agree too.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh looked very promising a few years ago but has fizzled down since. He might have the rare distinction of being the only pro to not complete a maximum break after missing the final black on not one but TWO occasions. Ken Doherty would be relieved.
Best Safety Play – Mark Selby | Ronnie O’Sullivan
Never thought that a day would come when I would use Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the same sentence. Mark is known for grinding through a match and keeping his chin up even when he’s down. His safety play is top notch. Personally, I don’t like his way of playing snooker but clearly it’s working for him.
Ronnie’s safety game has improved considerably with age and after attending the Ray Reardon Safety masterclass. He’s one of the best in business although you would disagree after watching his German Masters 2015 qualifier loss against Stuart Carrington where his safety display was amateurish. I wouldn’t blame him though as he was shaking dust off his cue and working through a comeback after a sabbatical from snooker.
Best Break Building – Ronnie O’Sullivan | Marco Fu
When it comes to positional play, Ronnie’s name doesn’t need any introduction or a paragraph filled with praise. The Rocket, with 909 centuries and counting, is the best in the world. Period.
Let’s talk about Marco Fu, who is second best for me. Cue-Man-Fu is seventh on the list of most century breaks in the world (457 and counting). What I really admire about his positional play is the effortless way in which he compiles break after break with utmost ease, at least that’s how it looks to the viewer. He often has the cue-ball on a string, making it dance around the pink and black and sometimes the blue. Marco plays the right shot at the right time and doesn’t go for too many difficult shots. The times when he does, he gets them most often and it is back to business as usual.
Best Table Manners – Shaun Murphy | Dominic Dale
Right from the handshake to acknowledging fans after a win/loss, Shaun Murphy is the quintessential snooker player when it comes to table manners. I believe that how you conduct yourself around the snooker table is equally important for a pro apart from just banging balls in six pockets. The Spaceman, Dominic Dale, is another sweetheart who conducts himself with utmost grace and class. Tells a lot about his personality, both on and off the table.
The player with the worst table manners is, (I am sure you guessed it), Liang Wenbo. The way in which he walks around the table portrays him to be full of arrogance and over-confidence. It was very disrespectful of him to jump up in the air and celebrate his semifinal win in an animated manner BEFORE shaking David Grace’s hand at the UK Championship 2015. I agree that he must’ve been chuffed to bits on reaching a triple crown event final but dude, that’s not how you conduct yourself on the table. He was also accused of poor etiquette during a match when he got up from his seat and walked up and down the table when his opponent was on a break. Absolute nuts this bloke is! Liang had talked about taking tips and advice from Ronnie but I guess the Rocket may have missed out on dishing an important piece of advice.
Hossein Vafaei is another not-so-honorable mention who recently displayed poor sportsmanship during his decider win over Stuart Bingham at the English Open 2017. The Ballrun had stated that Hossein had him distracted by moving during shots which led him losing his concentration. Elliot Slessor backed this claim and talked about his own bad experience with the Iranian pro, who displayed poor professionalism by shooting off angry tweets accusing Bingham of being a sore loser etc. This was very inappropriate of Hossein to call out a fellow pro on Twitter in that tone. But sometime later, the lad does a u-turn and deletes his tweets from Twitter. *slow clap*
Player whom I miss on the tour – Dechawat Poomjaeng
I was very sad on learning that Mr. Poombastic, the one and only Dechawat Poomjaeng, had dropped off the tour. He is a funny character, one that Snooker needs at the moment. The world saw many faces of him and smiled along during his Crucible debut back in 2013 which led to Dennis Taylor commentating ‘He has shared every emotion with the crowd’. He ended up winning his first Crucible match by needling Stephen Maguire 10-9 but couldn’t go far. I would LOVE to see him back on tour. Dechawat, if you’re reading this, get back on the tour son. You are fun!
Agree or disagree with my list? Let me know in the comments section.