I have deliberately waited before going for this one until the rage and “word war” have come down a bit on social media. It all turned about two main issues.
Issue 1 – the studio discussion about the “snooker behind the brown”
During the 2021 World final and in the aftermath of it, there was a lot of criticism targeting the Eurosport coverage, and a perceived “anti Selby” bias.
The whole thing started when the pundits had a discussion in the ES studio about a difficult situation on the table.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has said it “ain’t right” that Mark Selby was able to benefit from a controversial re-spot in the World Snooker Championship final against Shaun Murphy.
Selby got a taste of his own medicine during the 19th frame of the World Snooker Championship as Murphy had him in a world of trouble
with a very sneaky shot with the cue ball rolled in behind the brown, leaving a horrible snooker.
But after three misses on the tricky snooker from an extended ‘spider’ and ‘swan’ rests, Selby was strangely suddenly able to use a normal rest to eventually get out of the shot at the fourth time of asking.
Using freeze-frames in the Eurosport studio, experts O’Sullivan and Neal Foulds made it clear that the re-spot was not correct and the normal rest should never have been a possibility to get out of the original situation.
In O’Sullivan’s mind, it clearly was not right that Selby was suddenly able to play the shot with the different rest – and he was shocked that Murphy did not get out of his chair to flag the incorrect re-spot.
“If the white was put back where it was originally, this shot is just not possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “Because you can’t hit enough of the white, and if you did, you would probably miscue and the white would go towards the yellow.
“So if this shot was playable in the first place, he would have done. But even still, even when the white has moved [from the re-spot] quite considerably, really, he still couldn’t hit enough of the white to come that side of the red.
“So that shot was just never possible. You try not to blame the players, but in that situation, if the player has got the spider out originally and then he is using the rest, surely they should be able to use the technology to see the balls are not right. Because if they were right, you [Selby] would still have the spider in your hands. So maybe they should have used the technology to get it right.”
Foulds added: “Listen, you don’t want to get too involved in blaming players, but the balls were not put back correctly, we know that because we saw how they were put back and it was not correct, so the referee, the marker and the player at the table really have the responsibility. Murphy didn’t leave his chair; he will always take it on trust from the other player, but I’m a little surprised that happened the way it did because the shot was not on that he ended up playing.”
The images above show the situation on the table, before Mark Selby’s first attempt, and before the last one. It’s obvious that the brown is sticking out more on the right side of the white in the second image.
The ES pundits were definitely right in their assesment of the situation. No player would have taken the extended spider or the extended swan-neck if they could reach with the extended rest. Originally Mark Selby needed to cue “on top” of the white because he wasn’t seeing enough of it to cue on the side.
The ES pundits have discussed controversial situations like this, at length, including when Ronnie was on the wrong side of it notably the incident with the extented rest happened during his match against Luo Honghao during the 2018 English Open. At the time nobody accused them to be “anti-Ronnie” and Ronnie was branded a cheat on social media because “surely” he must have felt it.
Well, I will say that surely in this case Selby should have seen it, or at least questioned why he was suddenly able to play a shot that wasn’t on before. Yet, I haven’t seen anyone branding him “a cheat” on twitter.
To summarise my sentiment about this incident: it was not a case of being “anti-Selby”, even less a case of being “Selby haters”, it was a relevant question, and discussion, about a controversial table situation, and it is puzzling that Mark Selby didn’t question the replacement of the balls. This is a non-issue.
Issue 2: Desmond Kane article after the final
After the final, the always prolofic and lyrical Desmond Kane wrote a long article where he basically defended the idea that Mark Selby is bad for the game.
The article is quite really a long one and it’s mainly nonsense.
Mark Selby plays to his strength, he’s out there to try his hardest and win and it’s what he has to do. As a fan, you may or may not like to watch it, but it’s clever, skilful and within the rules, unlike what Ebdon did during the 2005 World Championship QF against Ronnie, where is was plain time wasting. Clearly Desmond doesn’t like it. I’m not a great fan either, but I disagree with the article all the same.
Desmond quotes various pundits/commentators to support his own views:
O’Sullivan compared his old rival to a “boa constrictor” on Eurosport in his ability to tighten his grip on opponents with balls welded to cushions and Murphy left frozen in some sort of snooker Siberia.
“Selby is keeping balls tight on the side cushion,”
But he overlooks the fact that Ronnie actually admires Selby for being able to play that way, and that his advice to Murphy was just to do what himself had done last year in the World’s semi-finals to avoid being trapped in Selby’s game.
Quoting Steve Davis:
Davis – who was hardly the life and soul of the party himself back in the day – rather cruelly compared Selby to a villain from the Harry Potter canon of fiction called the Dementor, a sort of grim reaper figure. They are said to “glory in decay and despair, they drain hope and happiness out of the air around them” which pretty much summed up Selby’s mightily effective, but soul-destroying dismantling of fellow Englishman Murphy
One for the purists? Most definitely. One to win a popularity contest? Most definitely not.
Mark Selby adequately answered those criticism
“What’s the point of going out there just to entertain the crowd if you keep losing? It doesn’t make sense to me. Look at your CV,” he said.
I DON’T WANT PEOPLE SAYING ‘HE WAS GREAT TO WATCH, BUT HE DIDN’T WIN ANYTHING’. IF YOU THINK I’M BORING, WATCH CORONATION STREET.
Quoting Stephen Hendry
“The claws are in and they are in deep, Mark Selby is like a snooker vampire. He sucks all the life and adrenaline out of you,” opined Hendry, the record seven-times Crucible holder.
Stephen Hendry is probably the one who really struggles to see positives in Mark Selby’s game because himself played the exact opposite uncompromisingly.
Also, although Eurosport got all the stick, it’s worth noting that Davis and Hendry don’t work for Eurosport. they work for the BBC. Yet, I didn’t see any criticism aimed at the BBC for those comments and, to my knowledge, no one suggested that they were “anti Selby”.
Quoting Graeme Dott
“I don’t think that is a good advert for snooker tonight,” said Dott. “That is just my personal opinion. I don’t like being involved in games were lots of people are actually leaving.
IT IS NOT SO MUCH PUTTING ME OFF. YOU JUST DON’T GET RHYTHM. IT IS LIKE KILLING THE GAME. IT IS THE EQUIVALENT OF A FOOTBALL TEAM PUTTING 11 MEN BEHIND THE BALL AND NOT ATTEMPTING TO COME OUT. IT IS JUST THE WAY MARK PLAYS.
Now those quotes date back to January 2013… people were leaving indeed, but surely, the fact that Ally Pally is a rather isolated place, that it was freezing cold and snowing and that the last busses were about to depart had something to do with it. I would know, I was there, duly missed the last bus and caught the mother of all colds.
Desmond also brings in Judd Trump:
“All the players need to do their job and make the sport as exciting as possible“
Well, for me, one of the beauties of snooker is diversity and not everyone is “excited” by the same things. At the risk of being branded an “odd ball”, I’m not excited by Judd Trump’s game, and certainly would not watch the sport anymore if we had 128 “Judd Trump” clones on the tour.
And Stuart Bingham:
“It was gruelling. It’s tough to lose a close game like that,” said Bingham. “Funnily enough, it’s the same sort of player, time in, time out, who plays slow. Does he do it on purpose or what?
“I want a free-flowing game. Everyone knows there was one shot which took three minutes. It’s close to gamesmanship.”
So, regarding this issue, for me the main question is: is it a “Eurosport” view, or a “Desmond Kane” view? And should Eurosport distance themselves from the article, if they think it’s going too far, and doesn’t reflect accurately their position as a brand?
Journalists should have the freedom to express their opinion, as long as they stay factually correct. They are the ones responsible for those opinions. The media for which they work should have the possibility to distance themselves if they think things are going too far. I’m not a fan of censorship. In this case, my sentiment is that this article reflects Desmond Kane’s views, and his only. It’s not a Eurosport issue.