Players breathe life into Crucible

Guy Hodgson says snooker may never have been in better shape

It seems a long while since Barry Hearn, the manager of Steve Davis and Ronnie O'Sullivan, prefaced the start of the Embassy World Snooker Championship by mourning the lack of characters in the game. Everyone, he said, seems to have "undergone a charisma bypass".

Seventeen days later, snooker could sit back and feel it had not just answered that criticism, but set up the Championship for the next five years. Characters? The Crucible has not been the focus of so much of the nation's attention since the heady days of the 1980s.

The BBC has announced that initial audience research points to a 55 per cent increase in viewing figures for the first week, and that was before Ronnie O'Sullivan took the tourn- ament from the back pages of the tabloids to the front by assaulting a press officer. Even if the 20-year-old from Chigwell goes to church every day for the next year, he will still be the "bad boy of snooker" by the time the Championship rolls around next year. People not normally interested in the game will turn to their television sets.

Add Peter Ebdon, whose waistcoats would not look out of place on Gary Glitter, and the increasing profile of another prodigy, John Higgins, and the event appears more secure than it has done for some time. That is also true in financial terms because Imperial Tobacco has agreed to sponsor the tournament and keep it at The Crucible until the year 2000.

Small wonder, then, at the post-final dinner that John Spencer, the chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, described the tournament as the best ever.

Such was the excitement of encounters like O'Sullivan's matches against Ebdon and Higgins that the progress of Stephen Hendry to his fifth successive final went almost unnoticed. Except at the end, of course, when the stone face cracked as the Scot won his sixth title, beating Ebdon 18-12 in the final, to match the modern record held by Ray Reardon and Steve Davis.

Hendry did not play that well - his safety play and long pots were, in his description, "shocking" for most of the tournament - but at The Crucible he has such an air of invincibility he wins matches before he gets off the chair.

1996/97 SEASON: Provisional world rankings: 1 S Hendry; 2 J Higgins; 3 P Ebdon; 4 J Parrott; 5 N Bond; 6 A McManus; 7 K Doherty; 8 R O'Sullivan; 9 D Morgan; 10 S Davis; 11 D Harold; 12 J Wattana; 13 J White; 14 A Robidoux; 15 T Drago; 16 M Williams.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory