The manner in which Graeme Dott laboriously ground out victory at the Crucible did not win him legions of fans but much of the criticism levelled his way since has been unfair.
OK, so his final against Peter Ebdon wasn’t pretty. Nobody is suggesting it was. There were times when it felt as if it would never end. I had an appreciation as to what it must feel like to be a character on the Channel 4 show Lost: marooned in a surreal place with no prospect of escape, surrounded by oddballs and malcontents. To be honest, though, the press room feels like that at the best of times.
Eventually, wee Dotty summoned up one final gulp of inspiration and scrambled over the line. Much has been said about the lateness of the hour but it must be pointed out that some bizarre scheduling decisions meant that the final session started two frames short of the number which should have been played, some 45 minutes later than planned.
A generally slow pace of play – a big thanks, by the way, to Dott and Ebdon for chucking in the longest ever televised frame during the final session – obviously didn’t help but there was much absorbing snooker in evidence as the match came down to the wire.
To win at this late hour after all that had happened took a tremendous amount of nerve, resolve and sheer bloody determination, which Dott has in spades. Winning at professional snooker is about far more than just potting balls.
Put more crudely, nobody who wins the world title can be said not to have earned it and Dott, it should be remembered, was appearing in his second Crucible final in three years. Hardly a flash in a pan, unless the pan is especially big and given to flashing with great regularity.
I interviewed Dotty on the first Friday of the Championship. No sooner had I started that the fire alarm sounded and we were ushered out of the Crucible for our own safety. They let the players in the arena carry on for a bit, which suggests the press is more highly thought of than we are generally led to believe.
Outside in the street, Graeme, in his distinctive high-pitched Glaswegian voice, told me the one thing he loves about the World Championship is the psychological warfare that comes with it. I could see he meant it, too, even if the idea of him becoming champion seemed a distant prospect at this point.
It is, of course, this very mental attrition that causes many a great player to lose the plot at Sheffield. Dott, though, held firm to the end. He came close to cracking when Ebdon started to come back at him but kept it together. His 68 break to lead 17-14 was as good a contribution as you are ever likely to see under the circumstances.
Dotty proved himself a champion by the way he reacted to this pressure, quite apart from the fact he beat players of the calibre of Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ebdon to win the thing.
After 17 days, he was the last man standing. At the Crucible, the ultimate snooker testing ground, this doesn’t happen by accident.
However you look at it, Dott is a worthy world champion.