Other than being widely accepted as two of the greatest snooker players in the history of the sport, there are not too many similarities between John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The latter is notorious for being one of the most volatile players on the circuit while Higgins is far more measured and level-headed in his style of play, as well as his personality.

They do, however, agree that snooker is in need of a shake-up.

Last month, O’Sullivan, in his trademark style, made his views known in a less than diplomatic way, saying the sport is “in the worst place it’s ever been”, calling the situation “beyond a crisis” before adding the game had become “like a pub sport”.

O’Sullivan’s outburst prompted a rebuke from the sport’s chief, Steve Dawson, saying his comments were “misguided” and that he had “gone too far”.

Higgins is less combative in his assessment of the modern game, but is no less keen to see change.

“I think Ronnie had some very good points but I think it turned a bit petty when he’s saying these things and then you’ve got our supremo [Dawson] coming out and slating him and I don’t like to see that,” he says. “There needs to be a shake-up, though.

“I think there needs to be a drastic change and every sport needs to innovate to keep up with the modern times.

“You don’t like to see these negative headlines because things are hard for snooker these days but there can be some truth in them.”

There is little hiding from the fact that compared to the sport’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, when millions were watching the sport and the money was flowing, things have regressed drastically.

While there is no magic wand to return the sport to its glory days, there is one thing Higgins would do immediately in an attempt to modernise snooker.

“I think the dress code needs to change. I think it looks too old fashioned. You look at other sports and they’re staying modern and we need to do that too,” the 47-year-old says.

“You could keep it for the World Championships – like Wimbledon have their dress code – but then at other events, things need to change.

“I’d be up for any changes if it means we could keep snooker at the forefront and if we can take as big a slice of the pie as possible when it comes to sponsorship, it’ll benefit the game and that’s what we all want.”

Higgins may have some useful input regarding ways to turn snooker’s fortunes around but for now, his focus is solely on what is happening on the green baize.

Today, the World Championships begin in Sheffield, with Higgins making his 29th appearance at the famous Crucible Theatre.

As a four-time winner – his last coming in 2011 – Higgins is no stranger to going the distance. But this season he is beginning with a different frame of mind. He will face qualifier David Grace in round one, with his season having been “bad”.

A spate of early-round losses has ensured this is one of the Wishaw man's poorest seasons, results-wise, in his three-decade long career with his poor run of form linked directly to his semi-final defeat by O’Sullivan in last year’s World Championships.

“My performance against Ronnie in the semis of the Worlds last year just totally deflated me,” says Higgins, who has 31-career ranking titles. “It was a big occasion and to be honest, I was really embarrassed with my performance. Over three days, I felt like I had nothing there and I was embarrassed by that.

“That was probably my lowest point. The Crucible can be a great venue to play in but it can also be pretty overwhelming. The crowd is so close to you and everything can get on top of you.”

But Higgins, who has dropped outside of the world’s top 10, is starting to see glimpses of the form that took him to the top. A quarter-final appearance at last month’s WST Classic included a victory over world No.7 Kyren Wilson, and the Scot can feel his confidence creeping back.

“My season’s been bad, very bad. But I’m feeling good now. I feel like my form’s picking up a bit going into the World Championships,” he says. “I’m beginning to hit the ball a bit better and my confidence is growing which is great because the Crucible is special,” he says.

“I got a new cue sent over from Thailand but it was too big. I persevered with it but it wasn’t right and so eventually, last month, I chopped an inch off it and that’s made a big difference to me.

“To the layman, an inch might not seem much but it’s a helluva lot in snooker and I was worried it wouldn’t work out but it’s really paying off now.

“I think the difference now is a combination of both the cue and where my head is and I do definitely think I’ve still got very good performances and very big wins in me.”

It is now 25 years since Higgins won his first world title and he is now far from the dominant force he was at his peak. But while he admits the thought of retirement has crossed his mind many times in recent years, he believes he could well follow the example of Jimmy White who, at the age of 60, is still a regular at ranking events and just last month, defeated world No.4 Judd Trump.

“There’s been plenty of times I thought I was past my best and it was time to hang up the cue. But the competitor in me makes you get back in there,” he says. “But I think I’m at that point when it doesn’t matter quite as much to me. I still want to do well but it’s not quite the same as it was 10 or 15 years ago.

“You just look at Jimmy White, he’s incredible. You see him on the practice table first thing in the morning and if seeing him still put the effort in doesn’t give you a wee gee-up then nothing will.

“I think I might well still have another decade in me. And I definitely still believe that if I play well, I’m a match for anyone out there.”