Sky Sports analyst Wayne Mardle gives his thoughts on darts’ return ahead of the World Matchplay…
Darts are going to be on TV. It’s going to be different, of course it is. But it’s still darts!
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What a lot of people won’t realise is that a lot of tour events are played behind closed doors in a sterile, quiet environment, away from the main stage. The players are used to it. They’re going to be used to the silence.
What they’re not going to be used to is the silence in that particular arena, and it’s normally a different atmosphere.
They’ll soon get used to it. But remember, some players will absolutely love it. Some players will thrive on the fact that there’s no atmosphere.
Players to feed off it?
The tour events, when they started to be held in sterile environments. If there’s any kind of noise going on, everyone looks around. The players are more or less told not to scream out when they do something outrageously good, like a 180 followed by a 170. So you see a lot of miming, screaming but you can’t hear it! There’s a lot of gestures going on.
It’s one of those things where some players need it. I needed it. It was said back in the day that when those events went into leisure centres, it finished me off. I had no want to be there at all. Some players absolutely thrive on it.
We do get floor players. Look at what Ian White has won. He crops up every single time, and it’s impossible to not talk about Ian White when you’re talking about winning on the floor and not on the big stages. It should suit him.
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But it will also suit those who have found heat a problem. There’ll be less heat. Mervyn King, John Henderson maybe.
There’s a lot of players who are going to think, ‘hold on, this is maybe the best opportunity I’m going to get because the surroundings will suit me’. Not everyone loves the scrutiny of cameras, loves that pressure. Michael van Gerwen, of course he does. Otherwise he wouldn’t have won what he’s won. But there will be some that should thrive, and probably will.
Will the Matchplay lose some magic?
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Hopefully the players will still play their game. Some will. The likes of Gerwyn Price, I think will struggle. I just do. He needs an atmosphere. Even though he’s won on the Pro Tour, he’s a showman. The likes of Peter Wright – that’s his show but he doesn’t need the crowd to interact.
Michael van Gerwen needs the crowd. Nathan Aspinall is another one.
I believe, yes it will be lost. But that’s where the players need to rise themselves and think ‘hold on, this may not feel like a televised event’. This may not feel like the second most important major on the calendar. But it is. And they have to realise the importance of it, not get too bogged down and bothered with us talking about no crowd.
So how will it pan out?
I’ve made a list of what I expect. I expect there to be a little bit of rustiness, edginess. There’s going to be players, I know they’re playing five events the week before. But I still think when you come to a huge event, what the Matchplay is, it will find people out.
I don’t expect some kind of random winner. I don’t know who I would pick as a dark horse. I’m not going to even include the likes of Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith as random winners of majors, because they’ve been there or thereabouts a lot of times. But maybe looking further down, I still think the cream will rise to the top.
But I just think it will be different for them to get there. I just feel it’s going to feel a bit flat.
You know how excited I get in the commentary box. I am telling myself now, don’t let the lack of atmosphere quell your enthusiasm!
You’re there to do what you do.
If it seems a bit over-the-top for the situation, just imagine there’s 2,000 watching.
Come next year – just say it’s Rob Cross again – it’s ‘oh Rob Cross is going for the trio of wins for the Matchplay’. It will still count! It will still count as prize-money.
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