THE issue of slow play is a topic for debate never far away in snooker and various players had their say in the run-up to and during the Shanghai Masters.

Strangely enough it was a qualifier for the Shanghai event that was still prompting reaction a month on. Dechawat Poomjaeng’s 5-3 win over Rory McLeod took almost six hours including breaks, and three hours for the first three frames. Frame one finished 88-87 to McLeod, once dubbed ‘The Dentist’ by Ricky Walden at the Crucible.

Ronnie O’Sullivan pronounced a match taking that long as “an absolute liberty. In golf you would be hurried along and warned about a penalty. The referees have got to get in there, keep at them, keep reminding them not be too slow.”

A crestfallen  Michael Holt came off table after a 5-2 first-round slog victory over Walden in Shanghai and insisted: “I feel like I’ve lost,” after a contest that descended into a grinding catalogue of scrappy frames, often through the balls going awkward and with no clear blame attached to either player. But ‘slow’ is becoming a dirty word and few players want to be branded as such.

Joe Perry can normally be relied upon to suggest a solution to most of snooker’s ills and believes that slow play is a curse that risks killing the game as a spectacle if it is not stamped out.

He said: “I think it is the biggest single problem within the sport. If you get a match like that, people will just be turning over the channel on TV and watching Antiques Roadshow or something.

“I think there should be a shot-clock of maybe 30 seconds but that it should only kick in at your second shot. So if you are in a lot of trouble after a good safety shot, a very important part of the game, you get your time. But once you have potted the first ball you get on with it.

“There are other times you might need a bit of extra time, if you snooker yourself badly maybe, but there could be a way of having a couple of timeouts a frame to get round that.”


Photograph by Monique Limbos