x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Short-form fad boosts snooker

With time at a premium, sporting disciplines are repackaging their contents to make them more feasible.

Mustafa Shehab will participate on behalf of the UAE in the first major snooker tournament being held in Thailand this week. Also for the first time, all billiard-related sporting bodies will attend the event.
Mustafa Shehab will participate on behalf of the UAE in the first major snooker tournament being held in Thailand this week. Also for the first time, all billiard-related sporting bodies will attend the event.

ABU DHABI // Short is sweet. It is also the flavour of the season. With time at a premium, sporting disciplines are reinventing and repackaging their contents to make them more feasible for spectators. With cricket taking off again with the popularity of the Twenty20 format, the cuesport fraternity is preparing for a new game - six-red snooker. Labelled the "T20 of cuesport", the world of snooker is looking towards Bangkok, where the first major tournament will take place beginning tomorrow until Sunday, with prize money of 1.8m baht (Dh200,000) on offer.

Sponsors have lined up to support the tournament - despite the unknown factor of its popularity - and as many as 18 of the world's leading professionals players have confirmed their entry. On the outside, the SangSom six-red tournament doesn't look much different from the original game. The only difference is that the 15 red balls have been reduced to six while the six coloured balls remain. The concept and the first international tournament is the brainchild of Sindhu Pulsirivong, the chairman of the Asian Confederation of Billiards and Snooker and the president of the Snooker Association of Thailand.

"I was watching the eight-ball and nine-ball pool tournaments on television and saw that the popularity of the new formats was increasing. Also the tournaments offered everyone an equal chance to win. So it was necessary to rethink on snooker," said Mr Pulsirivong. The new format was tried out on an inaugural basis at the South East Asian Games in Korat, Thailand, in December last year. Mr Pulsirivong admitted T20 was also an inspiration. Though the Indian Premier League was yet to be conceptualised, Mr Pulsirivong kept himself abreast with the county cricket in England and the Indian Cricket League.

Interestingly, snooker is a version of the more traditional billiards and was supposed to be more entertaining. But quite clearly, the huge response already shows change is the need of the hour. For the first time in the history of the sport, all related sporting bodies including the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the International Billiards Snooker Federation and the regional bodies will descend to watch the tournament.

Snooker's most popular player, Jimmy White, will be present as will two former world champions, Peter Ebdon, who lives in Dubai, and the Irishman Ken Doherty as well as world No 4 Mark Selby. Nineteen countries will be represented in the 48-player field. Mustafa Shehab, who, along with Mohammed al Joker, will represent the UAE at the event, said: "The format is very exciting. A frame finishes in less than five minutes. It is easy and gives a chance to everyone.

"At the same time, it is not that easy because you cannot afford to make a mistake. But it is fun." India's Yasin Merchant, the twice Asian snooker champion, added: "This format allows a player to win even with breaks of just 30 to 40." Shehab revealed there are plans to have a tournament for UAE players while Pakistan has announced another international tournament later this month. It will tentatively be a five-nation event from July 24-27.

kshyam@thenational.ae