Armchair Reporter: Hendry on cue to deliver top snooker analysis
DEPENDING on which way you look at it, the 1990s was a period of supreme sporting excellence by a handful of amazing individuals and teams, or it was a boring, unexciting era of the same old faces lifting the same trophies time and time again.
Michael Schumacher was winning F1 titles with Teutonic efficiency, Manchester United were starting to monopolise the Premier League and Stephen Hendry was monotonously racking up World Snooker titles.
I must admit, it did colour my view of the prodigious Scotsman. Yes he was on top of his game, a supreme talent, but couldn't he just let somebody else have a go (especially poor Jimmy White, who has had to resort to sticking a vacuum cleaner attachment on top of his dome as he enjoys the 'bants' with Colin Murray on Eurosport)? Even his predecessor in dominating the world scene Steve Davis had an endearing self-deprecating quality to him.
But, watching Hendry on BBC's coverage of the World Snooker Championship, I've come to appreciate his lofty standards. The great thing about Hendry analysing snooker is that he is not going to fall into the trap of being in awe of anyone. His seven world titles in the modern era is unrivalled, so he can speak with unchallenged authority. He certainly wasn't having any truck with Denis Taylor's meandering musings about how players didn't used to nip out to the loo during grueling Crucible sessions when on commentary duty with the Coalisland finger wagger.
"I think Terry Griffiths was the first to do it," wondered Denis. Hendry's prolonged silence highlighted his apathy – or maybe he'd gone out to spend a penny.
But it was during Saturday's epic semi-final between Mark Selby and Ding Junhui when the gulf in class was apparent between pundits. Hendry and Davis – boasting 13 world titles between them – held court with the unflappable Hazel Irvine while Taylor and John Virgo were on commentary duty.
Denis did his best to pass off the stats he was quite clearly being fed as figures he was just plucking from memory.
"Mark has a 59 per cent long pot success rate," said Denis "which I think is around about what he had last year when he won the world title." Oh for the days when the only 'stat' you go watching snooker was the shaky monochrome scoreboard at the bottom of the screen.
Selby was turning the screw early in the session, Hendry observed – something he had done to countless opponents down the years. But as Ding fought back, Hazel wondered if the crowd would get behind the underdog, not something Hendry or Davis would be best placed to identify. Would they start to get on Selby's back though, she thought.
Hendry wasn't convinced: "He's not had the boos, he's not at our level."
The commentary hierarchy seems to be determined by world titles, so Denis's sole success in 1985 (remember that?) puts him just ahead of the Virgo. The former UK champion and Big Break co-host has resorted to lapsing into cliché at every available opportunity and will probably end up in some care home in about 20 years time, rocking back and fourth, blurting out "where's the cue ball going?" over and over again.