ENGLAND’S Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham will be the World Cup ‘Dream Team’ there to be shot at by the rest for the revived international tournament in June.
The event combining singles and doubles play sees Wuxi retain a spot on the calendar after losing the full ranking tournament, won last season by Neil Robertson.
And instead 24 teams from 23 countries – with just hosts China getting two chances – will battle it out for the £130,000 first prize and some tour bragging rights worth plenty more on top.
There remains nothing like a bit of national fervour to stir the emotions, and as with that other primarily individual sport golf and the Ryder Cup, it is a rare chance for the solo performer to be part of a team.
With their two-man team comprising new world champion and world No2 Bingham, and world No1 and last year’s Crucible king Selby, England will certainly be one of the favourites.
Bingham leap-frogged several other eligible English players to qualify and may also have spared organisers a headache, given Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan and their spiky if compelling rivalry might not have made the best pairing.
In fact it seems very unlikely O’Sullivan would have travelled for this event to China to play with Selby, or perhaps even anyone else.
Shaun Murphy, too, may have had other commitments and it remains to be seen if others such as the highest two Scottish players in the post-world championship rankings – John Higgins and Stephen Maguire – will make the trip. Given the way things went for Scotland and the SNP in the General Election, it might be worth their while to continue the hot streak.
However while Bingham grabbing his place was a side issue compared to the magnitude of his world title triumph, it does pretty much ensure harmony in the England ranks.
More teams will be finalised after Q-School but we already know there will also be pairings from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, defending champions from 2011 China, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, Malta, Norway, Northern Ireland, Thailand and Wales.
The international team event has been staged under different names and with different formats on and off since 1979 and the World Challenge Cup.
That year Wales, featuring Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths and Doug Mountjoy, beat England’s Fred Davis, John Spencer and Graham Miles 14-3 from a field of just six teams at the Haden Hill Leisure Centre in Birmingham.
England, led by Steve Davis, won two of the three World Team Classics in the early 1980s, while All Ireland with Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor and Eugene Hughes won three World Cups in a row from 1985.
Canada have had their big moments. In 1982 Cliff Thorburn, Kirk Stevens and Bill Werbeniuk were too good for England in the final, and in 1990 Thorburn, Alain Robidoux and Bob Chaperon saw off Northern Ireland.
And the Scotland line-up hailed as the original ‘Dream Team’ of Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus prevailed in 1996, beating Ireland’s Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and Stephen Murphy 10-7. The last winners were China in 2011, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo beating Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and Gerrard Greene 4-2 in the final.
Bingham admitted that Selby had texted him before his superb 18-15 final win over Murphy in the Crucible final.
He said: “It puts me in the World Cup team to partner Mark Selby. He did text me before the final and say 'a bonus if you win this, you'll partner me in the World Cup!'
“Seeing the World Cup over the years, being English you've had to be in the top three or four to represent so I never thought the chance would be there.
“But to win the world title and now get to No 2, it has just been an unbelievable season.
“I was expecting six weeks off following the World Championship, but it's going to be more like four now before heading to China.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos