The criticism it would seem is not directed at Ding for receiving an invite - top up invitations (in terms of inviting the highest ranked non qualifying players) are nothing new in the Champion of Champions (where only one edition has seen the 16 man field filled exclusively by tournament winners) - but that Ding's qualification comes ahead of the winners of several events. Although these do include events which essentially are "give them a spot if we really are struggling to get 16" - they also include with the changes brought in for 2016/17 - full ranking events.
Like I said earlier, the Champion of Champions event isn't renowned for finding 16 different tournament winners, which has led to the suggestion that a field of 16 is too many and that a field of 8 or 12 may be more appropriate. Of the other events which have had broadly a similar theme - the original Champion of Champions from 1979 and 1980, the 1985 Kitkat Break for the eight then playing World Champions, the Champions Cup from 1999 to 2001 and the 2011 Premier League, only half of them were filled by players who were Champions at the time.
In terms of a darting equivalent - the Grand Slam of Darts, made up of the winners and runners up of the main ranking events alongside the winners of the lower-profile ranking events is the probably the closest matchup between the Champion of Champions snooker and it's darting cousin.
Is it possible with the advent of inviting the World Championship runner up to compete that - the Champion of Champions could well be expanded into a Grand Slam style event with possibly 24 or 32 competitors competing. It would be an easier field to fill than 16 individual event winners based on present criteria (which has led to a runner-up receiving a spot in the first instance)
Also, irony says it has to be Ding who will win the Champion of Champions this year.
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