The World Team Cup was first held in 1979 and was an innovation of Mike Watterson, the Barry Hearn of his day, who introduced several tournaments to the circuit before being kicked out by the players for that well known business crime of ‘making money.’
In its original form, it was a three man event, although the first staging every so slightly misjudged the schedule as the tournament finished a day earlier than planned.
The World Cup became part of the BBC’s portfolio of snooker events, usually running for four days a few weeks before the World Championship.
In the mid 1980s, its dominant team was the all-Ireland side of Dennis Taylor, Alex Higgins and Eugene Hughes, who won the title three years running.
Alex and Dennis were two of the game’s top players and Eugene was both a good player and, more importantly, a team man.
The format in those days was best of nine frame matches. Player A would play two frames, player B two and so on until a result was found.
In 1988, England (Steve Davis, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds) won the final 9-8 on a re-spotted black against the rather patronisingly titled ‘Rest of the World’ team of Dene O’Kane (New Zealand), Silvino Francisco (South Africa) and Tony Drago (Malta).
In those days Scotland struggled badly. They had Stephen Hendry and, er, well that was it really in terms of world beaters. This would, of course, change.
Other countries could rely on holy trinities such as Terry Griffiths, Ray Reardon and Doug Mountjoy (Wales) and Cliff Thorburn, Bill Werbeniuk and Kirk Stevens (Canada).
The last World Team Cup under this format was held in 1990 when the Canadian team (by now Thorburn, Alain Robidoux and Bob Chaperon) beat Northern Ireland, represented by Taylor, Higgins and Tommy Murphy.
All anyone remembers now about that year’s event was the row between Higgins and his captain, Taylor, in which Higgins let rip with a stream of nasty verbal abuse as he attempted to tell his skipper who he should be putting out when.
For this and many other transgressions, Higgins was banned for a season.
The World Cup resurfaced on a much grander scale in Bangkok in 1996 for a truly international version featuring all manner of countries.
In the final, the Scottish ‘dream team’ of Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus beat the Republic of Ireland side represented by Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and Stephen Murphy.
Team spirit was an important factor in Ireland reaching the final. They had it in spades whereas the England team of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Peter Ebdon and Nigel Bond had very little.
The 1996 World Cup was a great event but very costly to stage and quickly disappeared by the schedule.
In 1999, ITV came back into the snooker fold with the Nations Cup, held first in a freezing cold Newcastle in January.
Wales – Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Dominic Dale and Darren Morgan – won the title.
The Nations Cup moved to Reading the following season, where England triumphed and in 2001 Scotland beat Ireland in the final.
This was the infamous occasion where O’Brien was told to hurry up by a referee at a vital moment as ‘the TV coverage goes off in 15 minutes.’
Now, the World Cup is back with 19 nations and 20 teams (hosts Thailand have two).
Matches in the group stage have a Davis Cup feel with two singles frames, doubles and then reverse singles.
Interestingly, the doubles is alternate shot, which is surely going to act against the less fancied teams.
Take Australia: you could back Neil Robertson to crack in a long red and make a frame winning break but, under this format, the second shot will go to Steve Mifsud, a good player but not a professional.
In truth it is hard to look beyond the British home nations, Ireland and China as the most likely winners.
The good news is that the leading teams all get on: Williams and Stevens for Wales, Higgins and Stephen Maguire for Scotland, Selby and Carter for England, Doherty and O’Brien for Ireland and Mark Allen and Gerard Greene for Northern Ireland.
The lesser lights have an opportunity to show the world what they can do. Belgium, whose team is Bjorn Haneveer and Luca Brecel, could be dark horses.
I notice that the bookies don’t much rate the chances of Afghanistan but, in fact, Saleh Mohammad once reached the world amateur final for Pakistan, who he represented before returning to Afghanistan to help build up snooker in that country.
Thailand has an outside chance through both of their teams, not just because they are on home soil but because all four players – James Wattana, Passakorn Suwannawat, Thepchaiya Un Nooh and Dechawat Poomjaeng – are capable of doing the business under this format.
By the way, if you’re wondering how all these teams ended up in the event when, for instance, Canada did not, then here are the reasons:
The eight seeded teams are decided by the world rankings (based on the highest ranked player). Wildcards were awarded to Brazil and Germany as they are hosting tournaments later in the season.
The remaining places were in the gift of the European, Asian and African associations, who nominated the teams. Poland and Malta won qualifying events to take their places.
It promises to be an interesting week on the baize with a parade of many faces, some well known, others completely unknown and players for once playing as part of a team for national pride rather than purely for themselves.
It’s a departure from the standard snooker format and marks a return to Thailand, which was for so many years a popular destination for the circuit.
It starts live on Eurosport at 7am UK time tomorrow morning.