James Lawton: Ronnie O'Sullivan is no trouble... his brilliance is a joy to behold

That soaring sense that you are witnessing unique powers

Why do we want Ronnie O'Sullivan to soldier on through another year of angst? Why do we argue with those who say that he should make up his mind about either playing snooker or hiding away down on the farm and then give us all a bit of peace?

For the same reason we prayed that George Best would escape his shadows. Because he is worth the trouble and if there was any vague doubt about this he simply shot the hell out of it at the old potting arena of the Crucible.

No doubt he has issues and sometimes when he discusses them he can threaten to impinge on eternity. But life can be like this, of course. It can get complicated, even seem impossible at times, which is why when O'Sullivan appears with his heart set on business, the kind for which he was born, there is always going to be a new charge of electricity in the air.

After one whole night on the tiles, Best sped through a training session with impossible brilliance and his team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton said that he expected parts of his body to be exhibited one day as freaks of nature for the benefit of scientific research.

There is something of this in the talent of O'Sullivan. Quick-fire, ambidextrous, he makes nonsense of the usual geometric possibilities. He has the authority of a gunfighter determined not to linger about his work.

If O'Sullivan had spoken entirely with his cue these last few days he would still surely have touched the rarest and most thrilling of all emotion in sport. It is the reaction to sublime skill, that soaring sense that you are witnessing powers that may always be unique.

Being O'Sullivan, he was always going to make it more complicated than this. There were demons to revisit yet again and all the doubts which have besieged a talent which in less complex ownership would surely have some time ago smashed every record known to snooker.

Yet if O'Sullivan ran through the usual litany of denial of anything like a serene future after the astounding feat of retaining the world title after a year of exile, much of it spent on a pig farm, he also pulled off another remarkable achievement. The endless speculations of a sporting Hamlet acquired a sharper edge. To be, in this case a world champion successfully defending his title for a second time next year with unprecedented panache, seemed less a hope than an imperative.

His friend Jimmy White put it most eloquently when he said O'Sullivan's profession of love for the game was music to his ears, confirming as it did his belief that if snooker needs O'Sullivan it is in no less measure than he needs the game.

In fact, apart from producing a game so poised, so hot, it frequently burst into flames, the Essex Exocet injected some new weight into his musings after overcoming the excellent challenge of debutant finalist Barry Hawkins, who scored two of a record eight century breaks in a Crucible match.

O'Sullivan's opening philosophical salvo was familiar enough. He said, "I can't say that I will be back next year. I'm going to enjoy the moment and see how I feel in January."

But then, after paying tribute to the help of leading sports psychiatrist Steve Peters, he also said, "Everyone knows I'm up and down like a whore's drawers and you have to face your demons here, that is why it is such a hard tournament to win. Now I have even more respect for Stephen Hendry with his seven titles and Steve Davis with his six – but they were different.

"I'm trying to be more of a machine but I'm not a machine. I'm more like Alex Higgins. But I do have my little place in history."

At the age of 37, and with five world titles, O'Sullivan's niche in snooker is one which you have to believe he is capable of expanding quite spectacularly. His mention of Higgins was both apt and poignant.

It was a reminder of a lunch with Higgins at that time when he was the O'Sullivan of his day, a man capable of the most coruscating brilliance, which he demonstrated with two world titles separated by 10 years, but who was frequently confused about the point of his existence.

The lunch was extremely long and moist and when it was over, in the early evening, he announced he was off to a practice session. It was the afterthought of a man who would die alone and penniless back in Belfast, and after whose funeral the great Hendry reported his sadness that so few of his snooker contemporaries had made the effort to attend.

It is a fate that Ronnie O'Sullivan, if only subliminally, has maybe already rejected. There has, after all, been still more spectacular evidence of quite how much he has to protect.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?