A generation bridge called Morgan

Darren Morganin action in the Masters event of the IBSF World snooker championship recently.-K.MURALI KUMAR

The game of snooker has evolved. It has gotten bigger now, and things have naturally changed. It is now a young man’s sport, and we must cater to that audience, Darren Morgan tells Ashwin Achal.

Darren Morgan played at a time most consider to be the golden era of snooker. Jimmy White, Steve Davis, John Parrott, James Wattana — these were just some of the Morgan’s adversaries, and together, they helped raise the profile of the sport. Morgan, whose career saw him record a top-16 year-end finish on eight occasions, also witnessed the rise of the new stalwarts in the mid-1990s.

“I’ve seen the best of both generations. I started by playing against guys like White and Davis, and I was around when Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Mark Williams came on to the scene. I can proudly say that I have been around the finest players to have ever picked up a cue,” says the 48-year-old Welshman, who reached the final of the Masters section of the IBSF World snooker championship held in Bengaluru recently.

In a chat with Sportstar, Morgan talks about his career, which includes a memorable World championship victory in this very city, 27 years ago.

Question: Some of your breaks in this tournament have been incredible to watch. Do you still train regularly?

Answer: Well, when I’m in form, I can still play the way I did all those years ago. But every now and then, I throw in a real stinker of a shot. The bad days come more frequently now. This is because snooker is now a very small part of my life. I resigned from the professional tour in 2006, but I have resumed my career on the amateur circuit. In 2000, I began building and renovating houses. I also have a snooker parlour and a sports shop. I don’t get much time to train and practice.

What do you recall from your IBSF World championship win here in 1987?

Bangalore (now Bengaluru) has changed so much, there have been so many improvements. I remember that the roads then resembled dirt tracks, with cattle and bullock carts going around. Now you can see how cosmopolitan the city has become. Everything looks different. When I came here in 1987, I had never travelled abroad; it was my first time on an aeroplane.

They made a big fuss over here after I won. I still remember the party after the tournament. They had a huge snooker cake in the hotel; I still have the pictures. A brass band was playing too. When I went home, my parents were waiting for me on the street. The roads were decorated with banners.

The people in India are fantastic. That’s the only reason I came back. A part of me didn’t want to come back. I have such great memories of 1987 — if something did not go to plan, I did not want to spoil those memories.

What are the some of your favourite victories?

I have quite a few, but winning the 1996 Irish Masters after beating Steve Davis in the final is one of my favourites. It was just before my mother died, and Davis was her favourite player. Watching me defeat him was special for her. It will always remain in my heart.

Apart from that, I have fond memories of captaining the Wales team to a Nations Cup victory in 1999. Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens and Dominic Dale were part of that team, and we are all aware of the magnificent careers that they have had.

When you played in the 1990s, snooker seemed to have real class — the way the players carried themselves, the crisp suits, the poise. Is it fair to say that players in your era had more class than the current generation?

I disagree, that is not true. It is just that times have changed. I have three daughters. I allow my daughters to dress a certain way, but in my father’s time, there is no way he would have allowed them to go out like that.

Similarly, the game of snooker has evolved. Before us, we had players like Fred Davis and John Pulman — they were real gentlemen players. It resembled the stiff upper lip demeanour in a gentlemen’s club sport, with no women allowed and all that.

The sport has gotten bigger now, and things have naturally changed. It is now a young man’s sport, and we must cater to that audience. You can sometimes play with polo T-shirts now, and we must do everything to reach a bigger audience.

Do young snooker players recognise you during tournaments?

Some do, some don’t. A lot of them don’t have a clue. I’m a little old now. When I was at my peak, people wanted autographs and pictures. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

I was part of a popular video many years ago. Hendry, Parrott, Mike Hallot and I made a snooker video called ‘Play The Game’. A lot of people around the world had bought that video, and every now and then, people come up and say, ‘I remember you from the video’. That feels nice, but it does not happen often.

Young cueists watch their favourite players on TV now, and when they see me, they say: ‘Well, who is this guy then?’ A few of them have been informed about me by their managers and coaches, and they try to pick my brain. If they ask me something, I’ll answer. But, I try not to talk too much. The reason why I don’t talk is because I don’t want it to appear like I’m promoting a sort of ‘Morgan Show’ all the time.