April 9, 2013

The Captains Log: Life on the Road, The Forgotten Grape and Crucible Hopes

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:07 pm
The highlight of the season for the Captain

The highlight of the season for the Captain

It’s been a long time since The Captain gave us an update from the cockpit, so long that half the passengers on Carter Airlines Flight 147 are beginning to think he’s fallen asleep, but on the eve of the World Championship Ali has come up with the goods and below he talks about his feelings on how his season has gone, why he will be looking for more work/life balance next season, why he reckons (wrongly) I owe him a bottle of German wine and of course his thoughts on a possible match-up with Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible…..I will hand you over to your Captain.

Hello again everyone,

Well it’s been a while but as I’ve just about had enough of SB’s nagging I guess it was finally time to give in and pen another entry to the Captain’s Log.

It’s been an up and down year for me on the table and in many senses off it too. As ever it’s been a very busy season with lots of travelling and time away from home and family. The travelling always takes its toll and it can easily affect all aspects of your life – not only your game but your health, your home life and relationships and if you don’t do very well it affects your bank balance too! Some events this year have cost me more to participate in than I have picked up in prize money.

I know it’s even tougher and more costly for lower ranked players or amateurs entering the PTCs but as a ‘professional’ snooker player that’s a bit hard to swallow sometimes! I’m not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me and the rest of us – I know we are fortunate to be able to do what we do for a living and also you have to look at the season overall really, rather than event by event. But that’s the way things are going now. Looking at next season’s calendar it looks like as expected the majority of the season will be events overseas again. That being the case, I think it’s going to be as important as ever now to try and get some element of work/life balance and it may well be that you see a lot of the players being a bit more selective this season about what tournaments they enter. It’s something I will be sitting down with the people close to me and looking at. I want to be able to focus and fully commit to the events I participate in this year and that means being fit and healthy, motivated and fully prepared, rather than just drifting from one tournament to the next, which is how it can seem sometimes.

As I said earlier, it’s been an up and down year in many ways. I haven’t felt like I have played really well all year really, although I have in patches, but the consistency hasn’t been there. But I have learned how to dog out matches and win games when not playing at my best and that’s useful, and unfortunately sometimes necessary to be able to call on sometimes so I have won matches this year when I have felt I’ve not played great. Health wise I have not been particularly well in myself for a lot of the season. Combined with the hectic schedule and other off table commitments (and life in general!) it’s hard to get enough practice in sometimes. This has probably found me out at times this year and while I have never looked to my illness as an excuse, it certainly doesn’t help matters along the way. It’s an ongoing thing to try and identify the best eating and lifestyle habits but the condition really is so unpredictable when it comes and goes that it’s hard to pin things down. I see my consultant regularly too and remain in hope that we are able to find the best way to control things, as far as is possible.

The fair grape of dornfelder

The fair grape of dornfelder

Of course I was delighted to win in Berlin and knew that I was playing okay and feeling confident enough going into that event. That really is an amazing event in our calendar and one which I would love to see given more credibility and to become more lucrative. All the players love it there and it has to be the best supported event in the year. The venue and crowds are amazing and it’s a superb buzz going out to play in a one table set up at the final stages of an event like that. It meant a lot to re-establish myself again as a ranking event winner and having flown my girlfriend Milly out for the final it was the icing on the cake to be able to share the win with her. I kept telling her I was an okay player and that I might one day win something again but not sure she believed me until then! Haha.

Also in attendance were Mr and Mrs Snookerbacker. I understand that I pretty much paid for their trip as Mr SB had tipped me and put his money where his big mouth is by having a few quid on me. Now SB knows that myself and ‘Manager Steve’ are students and fans of the red grape and we have indeed all shared a glass or two over the last few years. So in the run up to Berlin SB had been teasing us with the promise of a previously unknown (and in fact, still unknown) vin rouge called ‘Dornfelder’ – being, as we understand it, a German grape and wine. Naturally, we were more than happy to sample a bottle or two of the ‘felder’ courtesy of SB. But no, it never happened, SB failed miserably to locate a bottle of the felder all week so it still remains a mystery to us. We settled for a few glasses of whatever it was they were serving in the players lounge at the venue after the event and while I went back to the hotel and retired I believe Steve and Mr & Mrs SB sank a few bottles in the hotel bar. Last time I won a trophy I managed to drop the bag it was in in the car park at Heathrow on my return and took a few chunks out of it but this time I’m happy to report the Berlin trophy got home in one piece.

So at this point in the year I am no different to every other player and snooker fan out there and am excited and eagerly awaiting the start of the World Championships. It was touch and go if I would scrape into the top 16 for automatic qualification so was pleased when it was known that I had just about done enough. I’m busy putting in plenty of practice and can’t wait to get going up there. We were all anxious to get the schedule last week and know when we play so we can start organising. It’s then that it feels real. The Worlds is a funny tournament because in a way the season that has passed by kind of pales into insignificance. That’s all done and we all just really focus on the World Championship. It can be such a pivotal tournament and make your season, even if you’ve had a mediocre one up to then (as I did last year!)

FinalThis year again there are so many of the guys who you just cannot write off and who are definitely capable of winning. There really is no easy round there. Personally I never had any doubt that Ronnie would be back to defend. And despite what some people think I am glad he is. I don’t believe that one player makes the game and we have had a great season without Ronnie being involved for the majority of it but there is no doubt that the snooker world can’t wait to have him back at the Championships. A lot of people will be looking ahead to a possible clash for us two in the second round. I really hope that is the case but we both have to get through our opening rounds which is no certainty for either of us. If it goes to plan then I too will relish the occasion and can’t wait to get it on!

So I’ve got a new tip on and practicing hard. We are all keeping an eye on the qualifiers and its always interesting to see who comes through and then what the draw is – so plenty of excitement ahead of the main event itself.

I’ve had no time (and the weather has been terrible too) to get up in the plane recently but when the Worlds is all done I hope to be able to spend a bit of time in the cockpit and will almost certainly try and grab a little holiday with Milly too. Dubai is one if my favourite holiday destinations so rather than just going via the airport as I have done plenty in the past to and from China I’d like to stay a litter longer and see at least a beach or a pool!

Okay, I’m off…. Enjoy the Championships and see you on the baize soon…

The Captain

Lee v Higgins Investigation Dropped

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:06 am

LeeWhile the ongoing investigation into match fixing allegations against Stephen Lee rumbles on in the background, I have been informed by a trusted source close to the player that the seperate investigation into his match with John Higgins in the Premier League last October, the match which triggered the player’s ongoing suspension, will not result in any action against Lee.

The match was reported and analysed in some detail on this blog at the time here and several theories discussed as to why the betting patterns that transpired did so.

One thing that the post didn’t mention in great detail which was widely reported at among other places this website at the time were the tweets from Judd Trump on the night of the match, which were hurriedly deleted but not before they were picked up by the hacks. The tweets appeared to point the finger of suspicion firmly in Lee’s direction both during and after the match.

Given that the match in question and the subject of Judd’s tweets will now apparently not result in any action against Lee and he has in effect been acquitted of any wrongdoing it will be interesting to see if he chooses to take any further action as he indicated he would at the time here saying “If Judd wants to go shouting off like that then I will get my lawyer involved. He obviously has a chip on his shoulder about something.”

Of course Lee still has a case to answer relating to other matches and this forms the sole basis for the case which is due to be heard sometime after the World Championship by an independent committee. These alleged breaches of WPBSA rules relate to four matches at the Malta Cup 2008, two matches at the UK Championship 2008, one match at the China Open 2009 and one match at the World Championship 2009.

Should Lee be acquitted he will be back playing on the main tour with immediate effect, should he be found guilty, he will have the right of appeal to a higher court.

The case (or at least some of it), as they say, continues.

World Snooker have confirmed that this investigation has now been concluded and no charges will be brought in relation to this match.

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