Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Jun Hui is the tie of the first round at the Crucible but for nostalgics – and there are many in the snooker world – Steve Davis v John Parrott has a certain romance about it.
Between them, they will have appeared 50 times at the home of snooker when there match gets underway on the first evening of the 888.com World Championship.
That’s a lot of balls potted as well as quite a few missed over the years. Of course, today they are very much part of the tournament as BBC television pundits.
With all this in mind, I’m reproducing here a feature I wrote on JP for the now (sadly) defunct Sportsman newspaper a year ago.
It’s slightly amended to take into account his qualification this season.
John Parrott is instantly recognisable to millions as one of the faces of the BBC’s snooker coverage. The quick-witted Liverpudlian spent six years entertaining as a captain on A Question of Sport and is a popular fixture on the after dinner speaking circuit.
He’s also, as he’s keen to point out, still a snooker player.
An ever present in the televised stage of the 888.com World Championship since 1984, Parrott missed out in 2005 when Fergal O’Brien beat him 10-8 in the final qualifying round.
He endured another close finish last year before scraping past Lee Spick 10-9 on the pink in the qualifiers and won two matches this season to secure a 23rd appearance at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
The 1991 world champion would have been at the tournament for the BBC but, still highly competitive after 24 years on the pro circuit, is proud to be part of the field.
“I went there two years ago determined to be professional so I put my TV head on but for the first day or so it was horrible,” Parrott said. “One of the worst things was that Fergal played so poorly in his match. It made not being in the tournament harder to take.
“The Crucible experience changes as you change. In 1991, I’d been playing so well that I walked in the building and fancied winning it. This year, all I want to do is play as well as I can and produce a good standard.
Parrott has won titles in France, Dubai, Thailand, China, Belgium and Germany during a golden spell in the early 1990s.
Humiliated 18-3 by Steve Davis in the 1989 world final, he bounced back to win the title two years later, exorcising the Davis defeat by beating the six times champion 16-14 in the semi-finals before his 18-11 final victory over Jimmy White.
“Winning the world title is something very special,” Parrott said. “Your name goes on the trophy and it never comes off.
“I take my hat off to Steve and Stephen Hendry that they could go to the Crucible and win it so many times. After I won in 1991, I spent a month staring at the ceiling just thinking, ‘I’m world champion.’”
Parrott joined the BBC snooker team in 2001 to work alongside Davis as pundit and presenter. The TV work has given him a new challenge and the opportunity to establish himself in a different field.
“You have to be like Worzel Gummidge and have two heads – your snooker player head and TV presenter head,” he said.
“I love being part of the BBC set up. One of the big differences between playing and presenting is that when you’re involved in a match you’re on your own. You walk out and play and it’s just you. On the TV side you’re part of a team and that’s something I enjoy.”
Parrott will enjoy this year’s Championship even more if he manages to spend less time in the studio and more reminding people of what he can do on the green baize.