The early stages of the 2017/18 season resumes on Monday with the start of the World Cup in Wuxi.
The World Cup sees 24 pairs from 23 different countries going head to head in the biggest team event in the sport.
Team events have a long tradition in snooker but haven’t played a major role on the calendar in the last couple of decades.
There was some form of major international team tournament throughout most of the 1980s while the World Doubles Championship ran simultaneously between 1982 and 1987.
Interest seemed to wane at the beginning of the 1990s, albeit there was a brief revival of the World Cup in 1996 and a short-lived Nations Cup series at the turn of the millennium.
However, for a decade between 2001 and 2011 there was nothing of note until the World Cup was again revised, generally taking on the current format of two-man teams which has been used up until this edition.
China was the victorious unit in both 2011 and 2015, albeit with two different partnerships.
In the former, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo became Asia’s first World Cup champions while teenagers Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong sensationally matched their more illustrious countrymen’s achievement four years later on home soil.
Both teams will return next week in an effort to prolong recent Chinese dominance in the event, and as the only nation with two outfits they have a better chance than most of taking top honours.
The format provides four groups that feature six countries in each, with a round-robin style initial phase producing eight quarter-finalists.
Matches in the round-robin will be best of five frames, with all frames won representing a point on the league table.
The first two frames will be singles, before an alternate-turn doubles frame, and two reversed singles ties.
From the last eight onwards, encounters will be increased to best of seven frames with four singles matches, two doubles fixtures, and if necessary a sudden death singles clash.
England boasts the two highest ranked competitors with Judd Trump and Barry Hawkins seeking a first World Cup win for the English since 1989.
The world numbers three and six have been drawn in the same group as Neil Robertson’s Australia, Switzerland, Iran, Malta, and Pakistan.
Ding and Liang’s China 1 will similarly be one of the favourites as they seek to regain the crown they won together six years ago, but have been handed a potentially tricky group with Ireland, Hong Kong, Belgium, Germany, and Egypt in the mix.
Ireland includes veterans Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien, who were beaten finalists alongside Stephen Murphy in the 1996 final against the dream team of Scotland.
The Scots boast a similarly strong team more than two decades later with John Higgins still flying the flag proudly – on this occasion alongside Anthony McGill.
Higgins and McGill have landed in the same group with Northern Ireland, Thailand, India, Cyprus, and Israel.
Defending champions China 2, meanwhile, head Group A and will be challenged by a strong Welsh team consisting of Mark Williams and Ryan Day, Finland, Norway, Malaysia, and Brazil.
The World Cup isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s good to have different tournaments with various formats on the calendar, while it’s a positive way of showcasing snooker’s ever growing global presence.
Actions runs from Monday until Sunday and will be live on Eurosport.
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