Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mocked McLeod wipes out White

Rory McLeod has had his reputation dragged through the mud.

Since progressing to the last 16 of this year's World Championship, the furthest he's ever been in a major ranking event, he's been openly ridiculed by a large proportion of the snooker world for being slow and laborious.

By his own admission, his Crucible win against Ricky Walden was far from vintage, but the extent to which he was pillared was harsh and unfair.

That means high up on his list of priorities this season will be silencing a few of his critics. And his 5-3 win in the Australian Open qualifiers today against one of the sport's greatest legends, Jimmy White, should go a long way in keeping some of them quiet.

The Whirlwind is still one of the most popular players on the professional tour, and is playing some of his best snooker in several years.

That's why we shouldn't take anything away from what was an excellent win in a difficult match for McLeod.

While today alone is unlikely to change the public perception of Rory, it only goes to confirm what a force he is in the qualifiers. I've seen him play many times in the cubicle set-up. As well as being a tenacious and hard-grafting player, he's also a very capable break-builder, proved when he made a 147 in last season's PTC series.

It's difficult to argue against the dullness of some of his televised displays in recent years, but by the same token, we all know the different pressures that come with playing in front of the cameras.

Disappointingly for Rory, he's spent most of his career locked in the qualifiers, and has therefore not had the chance to settle and produce anywhere near his best form in that environment. That explains why he's only enjoyed one win at a major venue since he first turned professional 20 years ago.

While that record doesn't make for particularly good reading, we must not forget what a stern qualifier he's been down the years with perhaps, only his shot selection stunting his progress.

Saying that, I expect to see Rory at least one venue this season. His win against White means he plays Robert Milkins tomorrow with his practice partner Peter Ebdon waiting for him in Bendigo.

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