World Snooker has confirmed it has awarded main tour wildcards to Luca Brecel, James Wattana, Lucky Vatnani and Yu Delu.
There will be 100 players on the professional circuit during the 2011/12 season.
Of these, the least controversial choice is Brecel, who won the European amateur title last year and would have been on the tour but for the fact that, at 15, he was too young.
Though relegated from the circuit, Wattana can still play to a high standard, as he proved by making the highest break of this year’s World Championship (in qualifying).
In his day he was a brilliant player, one of the best of the early 1990s. Wattana’s run to the final of his first professional event, the 1989 Asian Open in his native Bangkok, sparked a snooker boom in Thailand that lasted until he began to decline in the late 90s.
Thailand was the China of its day. During some seasons there were two ranking events staged there.
Wattana is still Thai snooker’s biggest name and his wildcard should ensure he plays in their World Cup team in Bangkok in July, something I’d imagine the organisers would be happy about.
Lucky Vatnani has lived up to his name, landing on the main tour without having to go through Q School.
I understand Pankaj Advani, the talented former IBSF world snooker and billiards champion, was offered a main tour wildcard but turned it down because he did not want to spend months on end in the UK.
Vatnani’s wildcard suggests that India is due to play a role in Barry Hearn’s future plans.
There was a story recently in an Indian newspaper – unconfirmed by World Snooker – that the governing body would be staging a ranking event in India during the coming season.
It’s not beyond the realms that this is where the World Open will end up.
Of course, it was in India where, according to legend, snooker was invented. There have been pro events there before and it is a huge market, ripe for tapping.
I’m not sure why Yu Delu was favoured over, for instance, Li Yang, who beat Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott in the China Open.
It may be that World Snooker gave the Chinese snooker authorities a wildcard and they awarded it to Yu, who has been a stalwart in the various ranking tournaments staged there over the years.
Wildcards have been dished out for many years. I think their worth is overstated. Ultimately, it is still up to the player to make it through qualifying, otherwise their profile remains pretty low and their value to the game as a whole isn’t particularly great.
It’s interesting that there will be four extra players on the circuit. The scare stories about Hearn before he took over centred on him cutting the tour. In fact, he has increased it.
But 100 players as opposed to 96 surely means there will have to be an extra round of qualifying.