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In awe of the Crucible

Rishi Persad | 18:52 UK time, Friday, 17 April 2009

I have just arrived in Sheffield for the start of the Snooker World Championships and despite being calm and relaxed on the journey up the M1, now that I am here the nerves are beginning to surface.

One of our programme producers, Ali Witkover, took time out to give me the grand tour of the famous Crucible as this is my first time at the hallowed venue.

I stood speechless in between the two tables in the main arena as the final nuts and bolts were being screwed in before I was taken to our studio, which is just a long pot away from the practice tables where seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry was fine tuning his game - as he drilled a red in from distance I made a terrible gag about him being a good bet for the tournament - he laughed politely.

We skirted around all the options for 'in vision positions' where I may appear and there was more than one occasion that I just nodded at what Ali was saying without truly listening, simply because in my head I was slowly realising the enormity of this event in the British sporting calendar.

For any sport, bar football, the chance to showcase just what makes it so special is rare in these days of increasing competition for terrestrial airtime and this is snooker's big moment.

The defending champion and the foremost player of the modern generation, Ronnie O'Sullivan, suggested earlier this year that snooker is 'dying', but I think the Rocket himself recognises that he has a huge role to play to prevent that.

Ronnie O'Sullivan

Despite what some marketing people may say, the very essence of what makes a sport attractive is the action it provides and the men and women who provide it.

Watching the Masters last Sunday was pure joy with Phil Mickelson and Tiger at the heart of an enthralling final day's play. We all remember last year's Wimbledon final as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both played like the champions that they are.

Perhaps golf and tennis, like football, are also exempt from needing to sell itself to the general public but both sports would have received an enormous boost as their top talents delivered on the big occasion - or at least when most people were watching.

Is it unreasonable to expect or indeed hope that Ronnie may find himself in the final against the enormously gifted number two seed Stephen Maguire and both players find it within themselves to produce one of those showdowns that people still remember decades later?

In fairness, there are a number of players who may not have all the magic of Ronnie but would light up any event if they were on song. Mark Selby and Ali Carter are two players who could arguably get to the final and that would be something worth tuning in for.

Personally I reckon Selby has a huge chance. Finalist here two years ago, he has shown good form as recently as January when he finished runner-up to Ronnie at The Masters and though he exited in the second round of the China Open last time out he is a player who always seem to be full of confidence.

Indeed I wish I had some of that confidence as I approach my first time presenting this particular event. My honest appraisal of why I am nervous is that though I have always enjoyed watching and following snooker and know about the exploits of the leading players I am not as comfortable as I would be on horse racing or cricket.

The groundwork for those sports were done as a child whereas I came to snooker a bit later. I am going to be out of my comfort zone, but it is a challenge I am looking forward to and naturally I hope my preparation pays off and I don't look like a complete fool.

For those of you wondering why I am up in Sheffield, it is because the lovely Hazel Irvine has only recently given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Gina, so is understandably unavailable.

I phoned Hazel for some advice on what lies in store for me for the next couple of weeks and she suggested that I sleep whenever I get the chance, I should eat healthily and get some exercise when I can. Hmmmm......

Comments

  • 1. At 9:30pm on 17 Apr 2009, TeamLegend wrote:

    I don't think I've ever known a presenter who can not stutter or erm during every link like you. Well done, mate.

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  • 2. At 9:30pm on 17 Apr 2009, Sehwag and Sachin - Perfect Combination! Torres is magic personified wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 3. At 9:32pm on 17 Apr 2009, Magic8BaLL wrote:

    Interesting read. Best of luck with the presenting; keep the same humble attitude and open mindedness you have shown in this blog and you will do a great job!

    Maybe give Steve Davis a couple of shots of whisky before he joins you, might liven him up a bit.

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  • 4. At 9:37pm on 17 Apr 2009, Tesh87 wrote:

    Great blog and Wish you all the best with the presenting. Really looking forward to this years Championship. So many big names up for it! Heart says Hendry but mind says Ronnie!

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  • 5. At 9:48pm on 17 Apr 2009, redtimbo wrote:

    I take it that Ray Stubbs will be the main man still. The times I've seen you you've been a racing presenter surrounded by fools making your job harder. Hopefully with some pundits who can talk you will find it easier.

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  • 6. At 10:02pm on 17 Apr 2009, TeamLegend wrote:

    Bring back Hazel!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • 7. At 10:06pm on 17 Apr 2009, HendonMrK wrote:

    Good luck Rishi, see on the first at the club!

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  • 8. At 10:10pm on 17 Apr 2009, WebbyFoxes wrote:

    Send out congrats to Hazel, she kept it quiet didnt she?
    You and Ray will be a good presenter line up, but with Hazel missing, it will lack a sparkle that she has brought to snooker, but dont let that worry you.
    You are a better presenter then the one who presents a Football show on a Sunday night who will stay nameless!

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  • 9. At 11:23pm on 17 Apr 2009, Fungus the Bogeyman wrote:

    You want a quick lesson in snooker, watch Hendry vs Williams in the first round. These guys know a thing or two about winning at the Crucible and am sure it will be the tie of the round.

    If you want to have an early night, one thing to avoid is challenging Terry Griffiths to a match......

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  • 10. At 00:44am on 18 Apr 2009, chriswray2 wrote:

    If you want to remind yourself how great the snooker players are, then try playing it, if you haven't recently.

    I played for the first time in years this week and I was reminded how hard the game is. Even a black off its spot isn't guaranteed unless you concentrate hard - and even then it's still not guaranteed.

    It's totally different to playing pool, because of the size of the table in relation to the size of the pockets. You can't just knock balls in like you can on a pool table (this is not to denigrate pool at a professional level), you've really got to concentrate.

    I was missing middle distance pots by a foot at times!

    At first I was trying to think about position, play with side and so on, but after fifteen minutes I realised that was useless and just started trying to pot plain ball.

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  • 11. At 00:51am on 18 Apr 2009, travelfreaktwo wrote:

    Good luck...
    I live overseas so I see snooker on a saterlite channel.. The commentators are awful because they just can't stop talking.. Snooker is a quiet game, and to absorb the atmosphere(particularly of 147's) the commentating disrupts..
    Take your cue from ESPN pool tournements where the commentators barly talk and if they do it is short and to the point, not repetitive..
    Good luck...again..

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  • 12. At 10:26am on 18 Apr 2009, chrissiboy wrote:

    Good luck Rishi!
    I was at the Crucible yesterday to meet Ali Carter who has agreed to support the charity MedicAlert. (www.medicalert.org.uk)
    I was really fortunate to be given a tour behind the scenes, to see the practice area, the TV studio area and also into the theatre area itself.
    You can tell that its a really special place, full of history and memories of the snooker greats.

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  • 13. At 12:26pm on 18 Apr 2009, ShinyDavidHowell wrote:

    I really admire the honesty and openness of this blog, especially the admission that covering a sport not 'in your blood' in the way racing and cricket are is more difficult - at least you aren't going in as cold as I did when I covered the European Championships in Ultimate (Frisbee) online with my university radio station (the event was on our campus sports fields) having never watched the sport before! Had to learn the rules in about five days before the week-long tournament - and then I ended up providing live commentary on several of the biggest matches! Fortunately not many were listening and I did tolerably well...

    Good luck. I intend to watch parts of this tournament and hope for a classic final too - a long, epic sporting fixture is something to savour even more than a shorter (i.e. football-length), epic sporting fixture, and you as a cricket fan should know that better than most!

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  • 14. At 7:17pm on 23 Apr 2009, bosher wrote:

    You have been a revelation as presenter of the snooker.
    Let's hope you soon present the cricket and the golf for the BBC.
    Good luck for the rest of the tournament.

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  • 15. At 9:40pm on 23 Apr 2009, sandcastlejim wrote:

    mate you are a total amateur. it is a disgrace that you got the job.

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  • 16. At 5:58pm on 29 Apr 2009, TeamLegend wrote:

    14 - Rishi, you could have made it less obvious.

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