THE revived World Cup in Wuxi is the week when snooker goes all ‘Ryder Cup’, and fiercely competitive individual sportspeople get to experience some rare joys of teamwork.
So it is in golf in the famous biennial September event between Europe and the USA, when even the most self-sufficient have to get their heads around the concepts of unity and team spirit during the singles and doubles matches.
Snooker, surely one of the most mentally taxing of sporting disciplines, already puts its stars through the wringer.
In addition to all of that turmoil this week in China, there is now the added bonus of not wanting to let your partner or team member down with national pride and a £130,000 first prize at stake.
But there is also a shoulder to cry on, a source of help, advice and encouragement. And given snooker’s players spend so much time in each other’s company travelling, eating and drinking together, this is not so much of a stretch of imagination.
Neil Robertson spoke with great insight about the differences between individual and team sports when Chelsea captain and good friend John Terry came to watch him at the Masters this year.
There are pros and cons, clearly, to working on your own or with others. A top snooker or golf star will be quite happy to shoulder all the pressure and responsibility, confident in their own talent.
But have a bad game individually, and you’re out. The same is not always true in a football team of 11, plus there is a waiting clutch of team-mates to rouse spirits if required.
Would winning a World Cup for yourselves and you country feel like clearing up to win a world title at the Crucible, or getting a birdie to win a Major on the final hole? Of course not. But it does present a player with different mental challenges and pressures.
Long-time Europe hero Lee Westwood said of the Ryder Cup in golf: “It's just a different kind of pressure. There's a lot of pressure in a Ryder Cup, the same as there's a massive amount of pressure at a Major Championship in the last round.
“But I think The Ryder Cup, it's a feeling of not wanting to let anybody down, and you're representing your country and your continent for us, and wanting to make a good show of it for them, as well. It's just different.”
England’s World Cup team for 2015 comprised the world No1 and world No2 in Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, the reigning and 2014 world champions.
They got off to a losing start against Thailand in the group stages, but Selby was enjoying the format and experience. He said: “It is a completely different kind of pressure to normal when you are playing only for yourself. There you play your own shots and worry about your own things.
“But in this the pressure changes because you don’t want to let your partner down. In the first game I felt as if I let Stuart down against Thailand, then recovered a bit in the second one.
“We are all enjoying it. I know a World Cup should be every four years or even every year sometimes, but I don’t see what’s wrong with having two or three of these a year.
“It helps grow the sport in new countries and you wouldn’t have to call it a World Cup.”
Bingham added: “To partner Mark, the world No1 and last year’s world champion, and represent England in a World Cup is a great honour for me.
“The format is different. I didn’t feel I really went for a shot properly in the first doubles, and you want to make up for a poor performance in the next match in the group stages. It has certainly been good to see teams from places like Qatar and Poland.”
Scotland’s team was another that looked powerful on paper, featuring John Higgins and Stephen Maguire, and four-time world champion Higgins had noticed from the outset which line-ups looked close and shared a strong bond.
He said: “It is a nice change for us playing in a team in a sport where usually it is all about the individual. We are probably the closest team in the tournament, me and Stephen.
“Australia and Malta look close too, Wales as well, but us two are good friends on the tour and feel as if we have a good chance to win the title.
“If you do lose in this format, you want it to be as close a margin as possible.
“The team that wins this will need to play well, but also have some luck because the matches are so short. Because of that, a lot of teams come into it and can win.
“But Stephen and I have played together before and have a strong partnership – we win as a team and lose as a team, our friendship could help us here.
“It certainly is more difficult with the team element, because you are in addition to the usual things thinking about not letting your partner down.”