Snooker is believed to have been invented at the Ooty Club in Jubulpore, India in 1875 by members of the British army taking shelter in the rainy season.
Little could they have imagined what they’d started.
Fast forward 138 years and there is a multi-million pound professional circuit. Lives have been changed forever by the fortunes of those who pot balls for a living.
And now snooker is coming home, to the country of its birth. The new Indian Open, which starts tomorrow in Delhi, is a welcome addition to a circuit already full with tournaments.
It’s fair to say not everyone understands the groundwork that goes into getting a new event in a new market to happen. It takes months, sometimes years, of negotiations and planning and not everything goes right in year one.
The Indian Open lasts five days because this is how long the venue could be secured for. Therefore, it’s a bit of a race to play an event featuring 64 players plus six wildcards, hence a best of seven frame format with a best of nine final.
It would have been preferable to take the top 16 plus 16 qualifiers and have a best of 17 final. The counter to this is that it would have been less likely that India’s two promising professionals, Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, would have qualified.
They are in Delhi this week but there have been several withdrawals – Ali Carter, Anthony Hamilton, Kyren Wilson, Dave Gilbert, Liam Highfield, Tony Drago and Yu Delu.
These have been for various reasons. Carter has ongoing health issues. Wilson has an injured shoulder. Gilbert is attending the funeral of one of his closest friends.
Highfield has withdrawn because of the cyclone that has hit eastern India. Yesterday he questioned whether the tournament should be taking place at all.
On his Twitter profile, Highfield describes himself as ‘The Special One’ but in four years as a professional he is yet to reach a last 32 in a major ranking event and he currently stands 67th in the prize money rankings so needs every pound he can muster to retain his tour status.
The cyclone is nowhere near Delhi. It’s like withdrawing from a tournament in Scotland because of weather trouble in Spain.
The players are staying – free of charge – in five star opulence well away from the cyclone’s destructive path. It will be interesting to see what playing conditions are like in this new market, although of course cue sports are long established here with billiards very popular.
It was at a world billiards championship that my friend Clive Everton once fell victim to ‘Delhi belly’ in spectacular fashion. After enjoying the pre-event banquet Clive found he had eaten something that disagreed with his delicate constitution.
Without being too graphic, he ended up on the toilet whereupon an earthquake struck, causing the hotel to shake violently. It’s fair to say it didn’t help his already fragile state of mind.
Such is the fun of travelling. These are the stories you tell your grandkids or, alternatively, write on snooker blogs.
And if players care to venture out at any point and observe the reality of life for some in India they may reflect how lucky they are to be playing snooker for a living.
The tournament has not proved attractive to British and European TV, however it is live on liveworldsnooker.tv and associated betting websites. Initially, there was to be no local TV coverage (and therefore no coverage) on the first two days but I understand this has been resolved.
Every sport starts somewhere. Snooker started in India. I hope the Indian Open goes well and that it can be built on in years to come as the game continues to spread its global reach.