The only predictable aspect of the darting world over the last 12 months has been its unpredictability. We’ve seen a host of new major winners crowned behind closed doors, but will that pattern continue when fans return?
Dimitri Van den Bergh, Glen Durrant, Jose De Sousa and Jonny Clayton all lifted maiden PDC televised titles without fans in attendance, while the previously irrepressible Michael van Gerwen has seen his dominance curtailed.
Sky Sports Darts’ Rod Studd joined the Darts Show podcast to discuss the current darting landscape and whether the return of fans would see old order restored, as he prepares for a comeback of his own at next month’s World Matchplay…
Price will want to prove a point
I have been looking at the world rankings this morning and it’s almost as if I haven’t been in the game for a year, then I realised I haven’t!
This might be just me and the fact I’ve been away from darts for a fair while, but when you say world champion and world No 1 – in my head, the next words were going to be Michael van Gerwen.
I don’t know if Van Gerwen is still thinking that or other players are still thinking that, because Van Gerwen repeatedly says: ‘They all know I’m still the man to beat’.
Now whether he is just trying to kid himself along or whether he actually still believes that, only Michael knows.
Gerwyn Price won that World Championship fair and square and he played brilliantly, but he’s got to keep doing it in big tournaments, in front of big crowds.
We know he can do that because he has done in the Grand Slam twice, but I think just for Gerwyn himself as well as for the rest of us, he needs to keep putting big titles alongside his World Championship and underline the fact he’s the best player.
Any stopping The Special One?
Jose De Sousa is 10th now in the official rankings, although there’s a website we use now – Darts Orakel. They do an of unofficial ranking and they have actually got Jose down as No 1 in their current rankings. There would definitely be an argument for that wouldn’t there?
I think if De Sousa played Price or Van Gerwen over the best of 35 legs, you would still make Van Gerwen or Price favourite if you were a bookmaker, but De Sousa really has carried on ripping up trees.
The big question is: Will the empty-room darts form carry on into what I would call proper darts, like the Matchplay, the Grand Prix in front of a crowd, the Grand Slam in front of a crowd and the World Championship in front of a crowd?
Will De Sousa carry on playing like he does in an empty room, in a full room? He hasn’t before but he hasn’t had much of a chance to.
He has been good fun to watch and I suspect he will be even more fun to watch in front of a crowd, because he’ll play to them and they will respond.
That can only be a good thing for him, certainly in terms of his persona and image. I think he will thrive on it because he is great fun to watch, he’s fun to listen to in interviews, so good luck to him.
I hope he continues to thrive because it just throws another player into the mix. It makes life interesting.
Changing of the guard?
I think the next few months will be instructive in that [changing of the guard]. What will happen at the Matchplay and beyond that? Will [Gary] Anderson have a revival?
James Wade – we would have been including him in that conversation 18 months ago, but then he banged a couple of big wins in back-to-back and won the UK Open to get himself up to world No 4 and ultimately take Gerwyn Price’ place by default in the Premier League.
Rob Cross is another one who burnt very brightly but appears to be fading. Michael Smith – can he reignite his career?
I found it quite difficult watching the Premier League to think Michael Smith wasn’t in it, because I’m conditioned to think that Michael Smith is one of the elite.
Old order to be resumed?
They can all play to a very high level in an empty room. You have seen that with the snooker and the darts; so we have seen some strange results.
The difference is, can they play at that level when the TV cameras are rolling, when a big venue like Blackpool is packed to the rafters, the lights are on.
Thousands are watching at the venue and huge numbers are watching on television and they know that. Can they play at that level then?
That in the end makes the difference, I think, between someone who is a very good player, and one of the great players that can win tournaments.
I am very interested to see whether we will see a continuation of players lower down the rankings beating elite players, or will the old order now be resumed?
When the world returns to normal, will the darts rankings return to what I would call normal, and will Van Gerwen start winning again when there’s a crowd?
Will Anderson move back up again, or will what we’ve seen over the last few months in empty rooms continue? It has all changed completely and it won’t return to that. This is the new order. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens in July, with nine days of coverage from the iconic Winter Gardens and the World Matchplay – the action gets underway on Saturday July 17
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