SECTION 3 RULE 14
The rule states that ‘the striker shall endeavour to hit the ball on to the best of their ability’. It also states that if the referee considers the rule infringed that a call of ‘foul and a miss’ shall be made.
The rest of this lengthy and complicated rule is a treatise on what the striker, non-striker and referee may or may not do after the miss has been called, including what is, or what is not allowed concerning the calling of a miss if balls on are able to be struck in a straight line, or impossible situations, or what the rules are about consultation and what restrictions are in place which prevent a miss being called.
These things are a must for any referee to know and are advisable for competition players so that they may know and be able to take advantage of whatever options are available, but.
When the incoming striker is snookered and the frame can still be won or drawn by either player with the balls remaining in play, is virtually the only time that the opinion of the referee is required and the only things that must be considered are contained in the first sentence of the rule.
The analysis of the statements contained in the first sentence is firstly that strikers shall only be limited and assessed by their own skill. If the skill is not possessed by the striker to be able to escape from a situation, then a miss may not be called by the referee. Secondly, that the striker shall try to the best of any ability possessed and anything less than that must be penalised and it is reasonable for any player, in any competition that would require a referee, to have enough skills to successfully negotiate simple situations. Examples of these would be one cushion escapes over short, medium and even some long distances where spin is not required, large targets such as 3 or more reds in close proximity, or even two in line abreast, ease of playing any stroke, etc. These and similar examples apply to novice and lesser skilled competition players as well as more experienced and higher skilled players who would also have higher expectations upon them.
It is agreed that this is based upon the opinion of the referee and if not enough time has passed to be able to assess the skill of unknown players then that referee must make an assessment based on the level of the competition contested. It is also the case that the referees are not only entitled to change an opinion from an earlier one, but are bound to do so by the strict wording of the rule once a satisfactory assessment has been made.
SEE – HOW TO ASSESS THE SKILLS OF AN UNKNOWN PLAYER.
The statement that ‘the striker shall endeavour to hit the ball on to the best of their ability’. Is also valid for every stroke played. This includes any stroke where straight line contact is available to any part of any ball on. If any competition player cannot first strike a ball on in such circumstances, perhaps bowls or computer games would be a viable alternative to Snooker.
It must be made clear that this statement refers to balls on in open positions with the cue ball accessible to the striker. If the referee considers all balls on are extremely difficult to hit and/or the cue ball is in a highly hampered position, even when straight line contact is available, then the freedom to refrain from calling a miss is the right of the referee.
The other important thing to stress is that the rule says the referee shall call a miss, not that the referee can call a miss. So if it is the opinion of a referee that a miss should be called, then called it must be.
So, all other things being equal it is only in snookered situations, when the both players are still able to win or draw the frame with the balls remaining in play, that the opinion of the referee is called upon.
Once any call of miss has been made neither the striker or the non-striker may aggressively dispute that call. It may be questioned, as can any other ruling, but only once and respectfully and whatever the answer is it must be accepted and the frame continued.
One more thing to say is that if a simple escape has been overlooked or ignored by the snookered striker, firstly, the referee may not say anything and secondly, is well within rights to call a miss in that situation if a ball on is not first struck. This is not a matter of skill but of judgement and does not have any bearing on whether or not a miss must or must not be called.
HOW TO ASSESS THE SKILLS OF AN UNKNOWN PLAYER.
The first and most obvious way is to ascertain if the player is the victor from a previous round in the competition where at least three frames have been played and even more so if the losing opponent is known. Consideration can also be made during pennant matches of which position and in which grade the player is competing in.
Another way is to study the stance and cue action of the player and consider if they are consistent with someone who is familiar with the game or if they are the actions of a novice and this can be done from the first stroke played.
The ability to find escape routes during safety exchanges and how effective they are, is also a very good indicator. Is the striker able to consistently find the baulk cushion? Again, this assessment can usually be made very early in the frame.
The ability to avoid potential fouls such as avoiding in-offs and being able to cue in awkward situations is another good indicator.
As the frame progresses it will become obvious whether or not the player is familiar with spin, how it is used and how easily it is imparted to the cue ball.
The most obvious things when this stage is reached will be the ability to pot balls, build breaks and of course cue ball control.
Even the way a cue is chalked, whilst not being a factor in assessing skill, can still be an indication of whether or not this is an experienced player.
In the example shown with the cue ball touching the brown and the incoming striker left with a very difficult escape, the option of playing up to the isolated red on the top cushion must run the risk of the referee calling a miss every time if contact is not made, regardless of the skill of the player and whether or not it is known by the referee. Whereas the attempt to play into the pack affords the referee some leeway in making an assessment that can take into consideration the known or determined skill of the player.