Merchant's Musings # 5 ...



  • Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better -- Jim Rohn.

  • Show me a guy who's afraid to look bad and I will show you a guy you can beat all the time -- Lou Brock.

The prey quivers uncontrollably….. whilst the predator stalks the hunting ground with an unflinching gaze. The attack that follows is so swift, that in comparison a bolt of lightning would have appeared to be in slow motion. The battle is over before it has even begun and the hapless victim submits meekly, resigning itself to its fate. The hunter having vanquished one, then moves to the next conquest, and the next, until there are none left.


A lot of you may wonder if I am describing a scene straight out of the Discovery Channel, of an act of nature in its full glory being played out in the wilderness, where a hungry tiger devours his victims in quick succession. You could not be forgiven for thinking that, but I am on a different planet altogether!


This scene clouded my imagination when I happened to catch Ronnie O’Sullivan’s maximum break. He stalked the balls with such a daunting look, that all I could think of then was of a tiger prowling for food. The walk was in purposeful strides, the body language was nothing short of sheer arrogance, and the eyes pierced the balls ferociously, threatening them to submit.  His attack on the balls was with such dominance; it appeared that they were actually potting themselves into the pocket to escape the wrath of their master, Ronnie.


Could this be what the top sportsperson refer to as ‘the killing zone’ or is it that this is typical O’Sullivan behavior, which has now catapulted him to the top of the heap?  I would want to go with this being Ronnie’s manner of play. On the table, this supremely talented player, who also happens to be very hard working, indicates his intentions from the word go.  His eyes seem to say I am here to play – so get on with the game, or move out of my way”.


When ‘The Rocket’ (Ronnie O’Sullivan) is on song, the environment around the table transforms into a blur and the silence within the arena is disturbed only by his own heartbeat – or so it seems. His focus is the target right in front of him, and no opponent, no occasion can now unnerve the hand that wields the cue with so much authority. Such is his deliberation on the task that everything else fades into oblivion. I am not essaying to craft newer eulogies on the man who obviously needs none now, but all I am trying to do is to analyze and present this champion’s outlook towards the game, both before and during play.


“Tunnel Vision” with unwavering focus - and the end result is for you to design.


You alone can shape your destiny by trying to imbibe some of these traits found in top professionals. Given an opportunity, study these champions minutely, instead of keeping score of who beat whom. That hardly matters. What should appeal to an observer is the manner in which the victory was achieved and of the disposition of the artiste. Dozens of young snooker players are going through the motions as they trudge through their matches listlessly. What is conspicuously absent is the fire in the belly, the ache in the hearts and the want in their eyes. Their eyes speak, but they speak of indifference, fear and a laid-back outlook about life in general, leave alone their match on hand. A few successful swings in the match and the initial steps are sprightly. As soon as the opponent hits back, then the lack of concern takes over their system and they begin to fold up, already making plans for the after-match expedition (read movies). Whatever happened to the good old fight-back, the aggressive come back or the fight till death approach that eventually paid dividends.


Our problem is that we attach too much importance to victory and defeat thereby compromising on quality of play. What better example can I give you than the final of the Liverpool Victoria challenge some years ago, where two of snooker’s greatest champions were battling for the top prize. Stephen Hendry led Ronnie O’Sullivan 8-1 in a best of 17. Ronnie playing for pride battles back to 8-8 with a string of mammoth breaks to provide a mouth-watering feast for the spectators. Hendry, the champion that he is, dug deep into his reserves and pulled out what has to be the most fabulous deciding frame in the history of snooker. His reply to Ronnie’s comeback was a maximum in the decider! He had the look in his eyes and his cue was spewing fire.


At the end of the break Hendry just shrugged his shoulders and moved on to shake the hands of his worthy opponent, who had provided to the snooker world one of the classiest encounters ever witnessed. Now, that is a comeback of substance, by both cueists. If either of them wanted they could have switched on their defensive button and played to win, but they were not willing to sacrifice good snooker for a win. The consequence – a match that will be talked about or written about for years to come.


How many of us are willing to stick our neck out at the risk of losing a match? Before you play the next match –THINK ABOUT IT.

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Yasin Merchant

India's ace snooker player




Rights reserved with Cue Sports India
Last modified: Monday August 24, 2009 22:24:26 +0530