World number 14 Jack Lisowski was handed an unexpected chance to switch his cue for a microphone at this year’s Betfred World Championship and the Gloucestershire potter says he relished every minute.
Following world number one and close friend Judd Trump’s calls for current players to be given a say in punditry, Lisowski was offered the opportunity to try his hand at broadcasting for the BBC in the wake of his second round defeat to Neil Robertson at the Crucible.
Originally it was set to be a single day arrangement. However, his success in the studio and the commentary box prompted an extension, which saw the 29-year-old remain in Sheffield for an extra week after his defeat. Off the back of Lisowski’s successful stint, Trump was also invited to join the BBC coverage and worked throughout the latter stages of the event. Lisowski thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which came about at the very last minute.
Lisowski explained: “As soon as I lost, one of the producers asked me if I fancied it. Judd had obviously said a few things to get people talking and the BBC’s production company IMG said it would be cool to get a current player in. I went back to the hotel to get changed after my match with Neil and thought that if I went home, then I wouldn’t be coming back. I got Ryan my manager to speak to them and he arranged for me to do the next day. It was originally a one off, but there was an extension each day and it snowballed. In the end we kept extending until the final.
“I actually wondered if it would be a bit embarrassing to stay after losing, but I know that Ronnie O’Sullivan does it for Eurosport. If he can do it, then I know that I can do the same thing. I think if I hadn’t thought of that I would have been a bit too embarrassed. Stephen Hendry was saying that he didn’t know how I could do it after losing. I thought to myself, no, Ronnie does it and it is good for the game.
“It’s live TV and it can be pretty frightening. When you are playing snooker it is live, but you don’t have to speak. It is a big deal to be on the BBC giving your opinions. I was pretty nervous, but by the end I was more relaxed. Hopefully it can actually help my snooker, as that was more nerve wracking than playing. People like Hazel, Radzi and Seema are amazing. They are so professional and watching them puts pressure on you. It is easy to be conscious of the camera.”
After Trump’s comments on freshening up snooker coverage, Lisowski felt they had no choice but to take the bull by the horns and embrace the chance to step in front of the camera. Lisowski believes that his involvement, alongside Trump, brought a freshness to the coverage and admits he most enjoyed explaining the mindset of the modern player to the viewer.
“I had to back it up and he had to back it up. When they asked Judd, he said to me he wasn’t sure if he could do it. We had to do it though and we had to go through that bit of stress at the start. After the initial nerves, I think it went well and we had good fun. I thought Judd was really good at it. I think he was best at commentary, he was an absolute natural at commentating as there is a lot to think about. We surprised ourselves in many aspects.
“The cool side of it was that we had been playing in the tournament and on the tables, so we could give an up to date perspective on things and even demonstrate by playing some of the shots ourselves. That’s what Judd and I were on about. I think showing the shots was what I was most comfortable doing, as it is my day job anyway.
“There were so lots of parts to the coverage which I didn’t know about. On commentary you have to know when to speak and when not to, do you look at your monitor or the action on the table through the glass? When you are in the studio, you have the producer calling things in your ear and the countdown when you are about to go on air is hard. Hendry and Davis have done it for years now and they weren’t nervous at all, but it takes some getting used to. I feel like I can get better at it and it was really cool to hear people on social media and even in the street saying I did a good job. I don’t want to get too good at it though, as that will mean I’m not winning matches!”
Lisowski’s 13-9 loss to Robertson in the last 16 ended an impressive season for the six-time ranking event finalist. However, defeats to Trump in the finals of the World Grand Prix, German Masters and Gibraltar Open meant that he emerged from the campaign still hunting maiden ranking silverware. Lisowski is now setting his sights on next season as the time to finally make his big breakthrough in filling his trophy cabinet.
“I thought I was unfortunate at the World Championship. Ali Carter was one of the worst first round draws and I just managed to beat him. Neil in that form was incredibly hard to beat. I was trying and trying. I couldn’t break him in the end, he was just phenomenal. I ran into someone that was too good. There are a lot of worse ways to lose, it wasn’t like it was a decider or that I got smashed. If there is a good way to lose then that is it, but at the end of the day I don’t want to be going out in the second round. I can have a nice break now, but next season is the one, this is it. I need to do well and it needs to start happening for me. I am putting myself in these big match situations regularly, so it isn’t new to me anymore. I have to figure it out, get it done and win one.
“I’ve said I think I am five years away from my best. I think the main goal is to be World Champion. That tournament is amazing and being around it makes me want to win it more. It is an amazing event and a real show. Playing at the Masters is crazy, but the prestige event is the World Championship, it is the pinnacle by so far. I want to win that tournament. The punditry was the first time I have seen the one table setup. It changes the whole Crucible. I now know that if I can win these three games and get to the semis, then I am in for the best place to play snooker imaginable. That is what makes it so special and I get it now. I understand it a lot more. Some tournaments you can fluke it. Nobody flukes the World Championship. The best player always wins.”