The inaugural Indian Open gets under way in New Delhi today as snooker returns to its country of birth.
Soldiers in the British army are said to have created the game in 1875 after a rainstorm forced them to take shelter.
Almost a century and a half later and snooker is now a multi-million euro sport that is continuing to show signs of increased growth worldwide.
With a population of over one billion people, India is a nation which boasts massive potential similar to that witnessed in China over the last decade.
China’s introduction to the sport began relatively small but has since grown into the hotbed for future talent in the game, with five full ranking events this season highlighting its earning potential.
Tens of millions of people tune in to watch these tournaments with thousands of snooker clubs across the mega country producing a conveyor belt of snooker pedigree.
Everyone involved with organising the event in India will be hoping that they will be able to mimic China’s success over the coming years.
World Snooker is continuing to try to tap into markets rarely tested in the past and India would be a significant coup.
In its favour is the fact that two of the most exciting lower ranked players on the circuit, India’s Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani, have both qualified for the main event.
In the Last 64, Mehta takes on former world champion Peter Ebdon while world billiards champion Advani meets Marcus Campbell of Scotland.
Advani became the first Indian to reach a ranking event quarter-final when he reached the last 8 of the Welsh Open last season and a similar run for either him or his countryman would really give a welcome boost to the tournament.
Despite seven withdrawals, each of these for various reasons, and the absence of the biggest draw in Ronnie O’Sullivan, several of the top stars are in attendance this week, including world no.1 Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and John Higgins.
Of those withdrawals, Liam Highfield’s appears to be the most peculiar.
The Englishman, struggling to fight his way into the Top 64 in the world rankings and remain on tour for next season, pulled out because he did not feel safe going to the country while Cyclone Phailin is active.
However, India is a country of vast size and this cyclone is nowhere near New Delhi and subsequently highly unlikely to hit the capital.
The fact that Highfield expressed on Twitter his delight at getting out of Germany after his defeat in the recent Ruhr Open, and then subsequent sarcastic comment at how he was not looking forward to his wildcard match in India, also suggests his lack of professionalism and commitment to the game.
Funnily enough, I went to look for these comments to quote them only to find they have since been deleted on his account. Convenient.
Anyway, three Irishmen will be making the trip with Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris all looking for some success in the short best of seven frames format.
Morris, who started the season well, will be hoping to put his recent blip behind him when he takes on Liang Wenbo while Doherty and O’Brien take on Mike Dunn and Alex Davies respectively.
Unfortunately, Eurosport has decided to not pick up this event and therefore there is no live coverage across any European network.
But here’s hoping to a successful tournament, the first of potentially many in the South Asian country.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.