Pundits Picks: How are the experts doing?
By CJ Harris-Hulme 29/12/2021
From December the 15th one of the most open PDC World Championships in a generation began to unfold at the Alexandra Palace. 96 players were confirmed and the draw completed live on SKY TV.
So many possible factors may weigh heavily on this year's event. The crowd’s return may influence early matches as players who have had little or no recent experience compete in front of an audience of good time folk who have been starved of their favorite entertainment for more than a year. The early draw highlight of Fallon Sherrock vs Steve Beaton may be the acid test of their willingness to leave the entertainment to the players.
Those, including Jose de Sousa, who thrived in fanless arenas will be tested to the max by the full-throttle vocality of an Ally Pally evening. Could Glen Durrant find support in the unlikeliest of places? Darts crowds may be loud but they do not like to see genuine people struggle. Their reaction to a clearly struggling Barrie Bates in previous years might provide Duzza a little comfort.
There are more players capable of winning PDC events or already proven, than ever before. Although not many would back Damon Heta, Ryan Joyce, Ross Smith et al to lift the trophy, one or all of them is capable of playing the spoiler role and removing a big name at any stage of the event. Ryan Searle is one to watch, Heavy Metal has moved on from being a ‘potential threat’ to being heavily fancied in any encounter.
The increasing international flavour of our game sees more players, and of higher quality, from beyond the UK staking their claim on the Ally Pally stage. Darts World has been suggesting this for a while and with Krzysztof Ratajski leading the way 2022 could be a breakthrough year for Central and Eastern Europe. The German contingent will be stronger in-depth than ever before. Schindler and Clemens and newcomer Fabian Schmutzler have put together superb performances this year and still, their potential has not been seen by Worldwide TV audiences, perhaps this will change?
Austria will be looking to follow their World Cup efforts with success on the biggest stage, Mensur Suljovic has been returning to himself, although he may hope to avoid Fallon Sherrock, and the remarkable Rodriguez family will once more hope to breakthrough.
The international element is capped off with the barely believable return of 67-year-old Paul Lim. Could his many fans enjoy another run or perhaps even the fabled ‘bookend’ 9-darter?
At the opposite end of the age spectrum, Bradley Brooks has progressed strongly this year, and may well prove a threat after his Grand Slam run, but there are many of his generations just as likely to prove lethal. Callan Rydz, Adam Gawlas, Nathan Rafferty, and newly crowned World Youth Champion, Super Ted (Evetts), could also cause major problems for more seasoned names.
Returning to the major names it's clear that three have been in trophy collecting shape this year. Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright, and Jonny Clayton have divided most of the 2021 silverware between them. Snakebite seems to have learned the art of producing his sublime best at the moment when it is most needed. Price has been utterly dominant at times but vulnerable if slow out of the blocks. Clayton, mercurial despite his sunny demeanor, seemed off the boil in recent weeks and possibly needs the break, before the Worlds, to get back to his peak?
Finally, the looming figure of MVG. Can the Dutchman add to his three crowns or is his period of dominance well and truly over?
Taking these and many other factors into account is a barely manageable task so we asked some of darts best-known pundits and some of our contributors to name their likely winner and a dark horse who may do some damage. The results were both varied and intriguing:
Colin Lloyd: The Former world No.1 was as decisive as ever.
MVG/Gezzy/Clayton & Chris Dobey/Ross Smith
Mark Webster: Former World Champion turned commentator and pundit went for one big name and a player who before being struck by personal tragedy was flying in 2021:
MVG and Joe Cullen
John Part: The three times World Champion and highly respected commentator also went for the Dutch legend but picked an unusual dark horse:
MVG and Whitlock
Laura Turner: Laura will be playing at Lakeside in 2022 but found a moment to select a big name champion and a thoughtful dark horse:
Clayton and Heta
Keith Deller: The 1983 World Champ added another voice to MVG’s choir but added a carefully selected name as his outside to do damage:
MVG and Michael Smith
Stuart Pyke: Popular commentator backed the Champion to retain but became the second voice to tip Lewis, the first to suggest this was a rather big name…..
Price and Adrian Lewis
Adam Smith: The Sky Commentator joins the throng of voices for the Green Machine but adds a sensible name for dark horse.
MVG and Luke Humphries
Rod Studd: Rod has had plenty of time to watch darts as he recovered from a recent stroke. Now ensconced behind the mic one more the SKY man opts for a safe winner and a very strong spoiler pick
MVG and Searle
Phil Taylor: In a recent chat with the 16 times World Champion we sought his view for this year's trophy. He backed Price immediately stressing that he was young, fit, healthy, and determined. Then The Power nominated two names we had yet to hear for the dark horse spot. His Stoke on Trent compatriot and the Belgian Hurricane
Price and Lewis /Huybrechts
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