Thursday, 12 July 2012

The speed of Ebdon

Peter Ebdon was up to his old tricks again today at the Australian Open - and it feels like the season is really under way now.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Sparks flew across Twitter as he literally crawled over the line Ding Junhui.

At stages of his 5-4  win against China's number one he was averaging 39 seconds per shot and boring his opponent into submission.

We got the usual reactions. The pro-Ebdon camp say he's not breaking the rules of the game. The ant-Ebdon camp say his gamesmanship is unacceptable.

As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Ebdon's tortoise-speed play is - rightly or wrongly - a proven technique for beating top players in the game. It could be argued that while Peter doesn't have the natural ability to match a player such as Ding, slowing down the tempo of a match is a reasonable way of bridging that gap.

To strengthen this opinion it's worth considering that despite his 'antics', Ding still actually came almighty close to weathering the storm and progressing to the quarter-finals. This might not make it right, but it shows he's up for the challenge.

The age old saying says you can't do anything in your chair. If Ding had kept Ebdon in his chair for longer and made more of his chances he would have won the match, irrespective of his opponent. That is a fact.

Ebdon won the world Championship a decade ago and even then, at the height of his power, his tactics helped him achieve his ultimate goal. He isn't the player he was back then but yet he still won a tournament as recent as the China Open just three months ago.

To consistently win titles, as Ding is striving to, he he will have to overcome all sorts, including Ebdon-esque pace. You could argue this is all part of the challenge of the modern game.

If every player played the same, we would have one dull sport on our hands.

This is the extremity of that argument, of course, and many people believe Ebdon has over-stepped the mark. Some of the turgid matches Peter has been involved in down the years have, quite frankly, been painful to watch.

I hear people say it's bad for the game but I don't believe that the playing styles of one, or even a few players, is enough to drive away real fans, or deter new ones.

If watching Ebdon really pains you that much then don't watch him play. It's very simple. 

Love him or loathe him, Ebdon has got everyone talking again after an otherwise mediocre start to the season. Make no mistake, Peter is still one of our sport's great characters.

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, as a Yank who is new to the game watching in California, if I had seen Ebdon play the first frames I saw, I would never have become a fan. Granted, I have "baby duck syndrome" because I saw Ronnie's speed record 147 and that ruined me for slow play.

    I have been trying to sell some of my friends who are sportsfans on snooker because of the strategy and precision but they'd think I was mental if I had them watch an Ebdon match.

    Honestly, why should it take so long for Ebdon, someone with thousands of hours of competition and practice to look at routine pots when the path to the next ball is clear and the table is laid out like connect-the-dots? (I base that figure on a conservative estimate of 1 hour a day for more than 20 years.) His faster play in the final revealed his slower pace in earlier rounds for nothing more than gamesmanship. Ebdon's a great player but a lousy sportsman.