From snookerscene blog
Last week, Dave Harold laboured for five hours, 45 minutes to shake off Ian McCulloch 5-4 and qualify for the final stages of the Shanghai Masters.
This is what you call taking the slow boat to China.
The average frame time was 39 minutes. If all matches were like this snooker would struggle as sporting entertainment but the game’s hard men should still be saluted.
There’s something about their bloody-minded refusal to lie down that is admirable.
Much has of course been written about Alex Higgins these last few weeks but rarely has it been pointed out what a great safety player he was.
He had to be. In the 1970s, with little money in the professional game, every ball was a pint of blood.
Eddie Charlton was perhaps the greatest grinder of them all. His nickname ‘Steady’ was a clue.
Then again, not for nothing did Cliff Thorburn become known as ‘The Grinder.’ Terry Griffiths was hardly averse to getting stuck in either.
These giants of the game had that never-say-die attitude that other players, though more naturally talented, have lacked and it undoubtedly helped lead to their success.
Today anyone remotely slow is labelled unsporting, a ridiculously simplistic label that ignores the fact that there is no time limit in snooker.
The referee has it in his or her discretion to warn a player if they feel they are taking too long over shots and this does happen occasionally but it is difficult for the officials because they have to judge the importance of the match and the pattern of play against the amount of time a player spends weighing up shots.
A snooker player’s first priority should be to win. The best chance of doing this is to play to your strengths, not your opponent’s.
The old style grinding has pretty much gone. People point to Peter Ebdon but he is one the game’s greatest ever break builders - fifth on the all time list of century makers - and accomplished at winning frames in one visit. He can grind when he needs to but doesn’t do it as a matter of course.
Famously, he slowed down to a slow crawl against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2005. Five years on, the arguments still rage as to whether or not this was acceptable.
Whether it was or not, it made for gripping drama – both sporting and human – as a genuine clash of styles and personalities was fought out.
As I recall, it ended with Ronnie bleeding from having scraped his nails across his forehead and Peter in tears in the BBC studio when challenged about his tactics.
Psychological breakdowns, emotional outpourings, bitter recriminations...now that’s a proper night at the Crucible.
So I congratulate the Stoke potter, Dave Harold, on his remarkable feat of endurance. It didn’t sound like the most exciting of matches but his dogged refusal to give an inch proves that you can get the rewards if you give it your all.
It’s just lucky for him he wasn’t paying for the light.
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