Here’s a question for a grey, miserable Thursday: who is the best player never to have been ranked inside the top 16?
For me, it’s a straight fight between Dominic Dale and Andy Hicks.
Dale, whose highest ever ranking is 19th, has to be ahead on points as he has won two ranking titles, the 1997 Grand Prix and 2007 Shanghai Masters.
His problem, quite obviously, has been consistency. It’s actually quite hard, considering the huge number of points gained, not to make a rapid rise up the rankings if you win a tournament, which is exactly as it should be.
After Dominic’s first win he went up from 54th to 23rd. His Shanghai success, though, did not bring an improvement. In fact he went down a place from 31st to 32nd.
The ‘Spaceman’ only won three ranking event matches after winning the title and two of those were in the round robin phase of the Grand Prix.
What of Hicks? Within the space of a year in 1995/96 he appeared in the semi-finals of the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Wembley Masters (although the latter doesn’t carry ranking points).
That year he got up to 17th in the world rankings but never made it into the elite group.
I’d say Andy is every bit as good, if not better, than some of the players who have been top 16 members but, like Dale, consistency has let him down and he has lost a lot of close matches during his career.
The brutal truth is that there are many more than 16 players good enough to be in the top 16.
Getting there takes some doing and even players capable of great performances are not guaranteed a place.