23.5.08

WHO SHOULD GET THE MAIN TOUR WILDCARD?

World Snooker has one wildcard to be awarded at its discretion to a player who has not qualified for the professional tour in any of the myriad of ways possible.

There may – for various reasons – be more wildcards available but assuming for now there is just one, who should get it?

For me, the outstanding choice is Liu Chuang, who gave Ronnie O’Sullivan something of a first session scare before losing 10-5 to the eventual winner at the 888.com World Championship.

Liu was only the fourth 17 year-old – after Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan and Judd Trump – to compete at the Crucible and the first pro to qualify in their debut season for 13 years.

He was unable to play in the qualifiers for the season-opening Shanghai Masters because of a mix up over visas so had only six tournaments to count towards his final ranking.

Liu found it hard at first to adjust to life on the circuit. This is hardly surprising: he’s a teenager from China, abroad for the first time in a completely different culture.

Yet he demonstrated by qualifying for the Crucible – and against O’Sullivan – that he has potential and surely deserves another, immediate chance.

If not Liu, then who?

Drew Henry, a pro for 17 years before relegation after the World Championship, has chosen to retain his professional status rather than resign like all the other players who missed out. Last I heard he was considering applying for the wildcard.

I’m unsure, to be brutally honest, on what grounds it could be given to him. This is not to detract from his career – which has been better than most – but he would not have a better claim than Liu in my opinion.

Tony Drago has applied and could be in with a chance on the basis of being a recognisable name who is, unquestionably, attractive to watch.

Also, with a professional event established in Malta, it may be seen to be smart politically to keep him on the tour.

The same does not apply for James Wattana, who appears to have lost interest in the game. Thailand’s greatest ever player does not wish to continue and has returned home to pursue other interests.

Michael White could be a good outside bet. There was widespread sympathy for this 16 year-old when he was denied the chance to play in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers because he was, for a few days, still 15.

Shaun Murphy had been given an exemption in almost identical circumstances in 1998. Almost unbelievably, World Snooker denied this had happened until Snooker Scene produced irrefutable evidence that it did.

White, then, was under pressure from the off, not just because he had one less tournament to play in but also because of the furore surrounding his exclusion and the sense of injustice it must have engendered.

He didn’t make any great impact on the other events but he’s still very young and, most observers would conclude, has time to improve.

Perhaps a season on the PIOS would do him good but plenty of 16/17 year-olds have played on the main tour so why not White?

Other names will doubtless be presented before a decision is made. Hopefully, it will be made for the right reasons.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

hi Dave!

in 2007\2008 was 3 WILDCARD`s
and they all missed out.

why in next season only one WILDCARD?

Vadim, Ukrain

Anonymous said...

I favour a new talent to be given the wildcard. Maybe preferable a non UK player (effort to make snooker more international).
To go back to has beens like Drago and White does not do anything for the future of snooker imo. Maybe nice on the day to see them play once more, but thats all to it.

Cheers

Paul

Anonymous said...

I think Michael White, Drago, Chuang and Henry should be given wild cards along with all other players who only had one season to prove their worth on the tour- especially any who missed a tournament due to visa problems. With only 7 ranking events (6 for some) the cream can have more difficulty rising to the top! When Higgins, Williams and O'sullivan turned pro in 1992- a lot of future top 16 players would of struggled to survive on the tour if the conditions were as they are at present- the luck of the draw is too big a factor.
Increase the tour to 112 and give all those first year pros another chance along with some additional overseas places.
John H

Supaselby said...

David;

Another excellent blog with a great talking point.

This is always going to cause a lot of debate as in previous year's World Snooker have issued some strange wild cards in recent times (Steve James & Gary Wilkinson) and some excellent wild cards in Judd Trump and most recently Michael White.

My personal opinion is it should go to Liu Chaung after his impressive performance in qualifying for the World Championship at his first attempt and defeating major champions David Gray and Dominic Dale en-route to The Crucible and his run to the last eight of the SAGA Insurance Masters Qualifiers where former Crucible qualifiers Barry Pinches and David Gilbert were among his victims in what I think was his professional debut. As Anon said above we must also remember that due to visa problems last summer Liu missed out on the opportunity to play in the Shanghi Masters.

Likewise Michael White only had points from six events to calculate due to also missing out on the Shanghi Masters for other reasons but, results have been hard to come by in the remaining events. As you said David many of todays top players have been relegated from the main circuit after only one season including Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson and have gained vital experience on the secondary circuit before returning to the main circuit so a season on the PIOS will do him no harm and re-build his confidence.

It's a sad day when the likes of James Wattana and Tony Drago disappear from mainstream snooker after all they have done to promote the sport in Asia and Malta but, Wattana has certainly set the foundations in his part of the world which he must be proud of and I think Drago's heart is more on the pool circuit these days and snookers loss will once again be Europe's gain in the defence of the Mosconi Cup in December.

Ryan

Anonymous said...

I cant honestly see any reason for Drago to be given a wildcard. He is a shadow of his former self nowadays and sometimes one has to draw a line.

Snooker should move on and not get stuck into the past. Thats a WSA attitude.

All the best

Paul

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Dave. I think it´s a shame when Liu looses his Main Tour place. Ok, Michael White is also a good choice, but you can count the matches he´s won on your right hand! And Liu achieved something in his first year...

hegeland said...

I don't think Tony Drago will be too upset about not being on the tour next season. He's focusing on pool, not snooker these days.

He has had his best season ever, in both snooker and pool, in terms of lifting trophies.

He was voted Most Valuable Player on the Mosconi Cup, won the Eurotour French Open and just weeks ago won the televised international 10-ball championship in Las Vegas, in very hard competition.

So I say let's give the wild-card to someone else, so we can continue to enjoy watching Tony lifting trophies on TV!

Anonymous said...

I think WSA should be looking to the future not the past.

Liu Chuang MUST have a wildcard

and if there is another available then it should go to Michael White.

Anonymous said...

I'd go for Liu Chuang also.
Regarding Michael White I'm not sure he should get one. Surely he's a promising young lad. But this year there was a lot of expectations about him and he did not cope so well. Maybe too much pressure for a boy who is still immature (and that's only normal). If he gets a wildcard that pressure - to prove he deserved it - might be even stronger. While spending a year maybe far from the limelights and getting experience before coming back might help him more efficiently in the long term.
Any views on this?
M.

Anonymous said...

Nobody's mentioned Jimmy White.

Anonymous said...

That's because Jimmy White's already on the Main Tour for next season.