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.


Eddie C said...

We understand that Yu Delu was the next highest ranked player in China available for selection (and higher than Li Yan).

Betty Logan said...

How is 100 players going to work? It is going to seriously disadvantage the four properly qualified players who have to play the extra round. Do you think there is another surprise in store for us, like maybe a qualification leg in other countries? I mean, people slag off the Chinese wildcard system at THE CHINESE EVENTS, so maybe it is about time they were granted a qualifier leg, at least for their own events?

Anonymous said...

i think having 100 makes it interesting at the bottom of the rankings at cut off points.

bottom 8 ranked players has to play a extra round so to avoid that players got a goal of top 92 to get in first at each cut off point.

kildare cueman said...

There will always be controversy, or at least differing opinions, over the granting of wildcards.

Many, understandably, will object to stars of yesteryear and colourful foreign players with fan appeal, superceding players that are quite simply, better players.

It has to be remembered though, that unlike golf and tennis, (the two sports that snooker seems to be constantly compared to), snooker is currently in a state of rebirth, or an attempted rebuilding of it's fan base.

The people who read this blog, that is, hardcore snooker fans, would be quite happy to see the tour consist solely of the best 96 or 100 players on the planet. I would myself.

Unfortunately, we, as a unit, are insufficient in number and willingness to spend enough cash to sustain the growth necessary to redevelop the game as a global entity. In order for this to happen, gimmicks like the shootout, The league with Jimmy, chinese wildcards and shotclocks are deemed a necessary evil by Barry Hearn.

Im sure he could have rounded up half a dozen Brits last year that would have been better players than Igor or Thanawat, and this year could have done the same instead of Wattana or Lucky.

He could have replaced White with Selby in the PL.

He could have churned out a never ending stream of best of 9 rankers that would pacify us, the real fans.

The old regime tried that. The game was losing sponsors, tournaments and viewers like never before.

We are now on an upsurge, as a direct result of Hearns radical thinking. Let him on I say.

My 14 year old son wouldn't look at snooker for love nor money, but now he loves short matches and shot clocks. I'm sure there are many more youngsters the same, and if only a small percentage of those become diehard fans it will be objective achieved.

The same principal applies to foreign players. Hearn is lucky as well as good and at least one of his overseas picks will become a top player and cause a snooker explosion in a different country.

In the meantime, I will accept his decisions, ludicrous as some of them may look on the surface.

147 said...

very well said kildare cueman i agree fully

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Kildare. Exactly what i think of the current situation of snooker

Mignon said...

One more "Hear, hear!" from me, Kildare cueman! Very well said.