(The following article was sent in by Paul Downey. We wish to thank Mr. Downey for his continued contributions to theOche.com!)
Legendary commentator Sid Waddell has hailed the rivalry between Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld saying, “Barneveld’s battles with Taylor in the last 15 months have put a flame under our whole sport.”
Waddell was able to free up some time recently to chat about the Holsten Premier League so far and also some of his other upcoming projects.
The iconic Geordie believes that the quality of the players is the one and only reason why darts is becoming a very popular sport. ?The reason the sport is becoming more popular is the dramatic rise in the averages of the top players over the last ten years. In the mid-1980s when Bristow and Lowe were in their prime you could win the Embassy world crown with a tournament average of about 94. To beat Taylor at the Ally Pally in this year?s world championship, somebody will need an average in the final of around 104!?
He continued, ?Phil is the reason the standard has gone through the roof. He produces nine-darters to order ? see his recent one against Barney in Holland ? and has never lost in 42 Premier Darts League outings. Phil?s averages have been phenomenal since 1997. His average in News of the World final that year was 107. Against Barney in the showdown of 1999 he won with an average of 104. In 2000 his average in winning the world championship was 102. A couple of years back he averaged 112 over 12 legs against John Part in Ireland with a double to start! At Sheffield in the PDL he came back from 5-1 down to Barney to win 8-6, averaging 115 in the last 8 legs. He has brought mastery to a sport that I never believed could be mastered,? Waddell said.
Waddell also has some personal favourites from this years tournament but does believe the final itself will be spectacle all on its own.
?Taylor versus Barney at Sheffield was sensational and so was Scholten coming back from 6-0 down against Jenkins to nearly snatch victory, also Adrian Lewis versus Barney, when the young Stokie tried to do a ?blind 180? and a blind Double Top, i.e. throwing the darts while looking at his opponent. Pure sporting theatre.?
He has though predicted no upsets for the Semi Final as he believes Barneveld and Taylor will both be in full swing to overcome Jenkins and Priestley saying, ?I think both Priestley and Jenkins have shot their bolts. The semis are over 21 legs and I don?t think Dennis has the concentration to beat Phil and I reckon Barney will be in full flow to beat Jenkins. The final, over 31 legs will be a classic and I would not like to pick a winner.?
Adrian Lewis in his debut season on the Premier League Darts has certainly caught a lot of people eye, despite finishing 7th in the league Waddell believes there is plenty more to come from Stoke born player,
?I think Adie Lewis has all the makings of a world champion. I saw his ?blind shots? against Barney as being a bit like George Best nutmegging a brawny fullback. He is a showman in the Alan Evans and Jocky mould. I can?t wait to see him and Van Gerwen play at Bolton in the OK Open.?
Waddell has urged fans though that this is not as good as it gets, and next years tournament will be bigger and better.
?This has been the best PDL since the matches have been more exciting and the Taylor/Barney axis has been fascinating. Also the dogged efficiency of Terry Jenkins and the madcap antics of Adrian Lewis have seasoned the pot. Next year?s venues will be even bigger? and louder,? he confidently stated.
Sid also briefly chatted about Andy Fordham who is currently recovering from a stroke,
?I think that Andy Fordham, just like Jocky, could only play one way ? with large amounts of ale. It obviously has almost ruined his general health. But many darters feel booze is part of their act?and you have to reap what you sow,? he claimed.
At the beginning of the year Phil Taylor began a fitness regime aimed at weight loss which he claimed would help his game, although Taylor has come back to form Waddell does think that his form did drop to begin with although he does think more darts players could consider such action.
?Taylor lost too much weight too fast in January and February of this year. It took till Sheffield on March 1st for the real ?Power? to kick in; he averaged 102.3 and beat Barney 8-6. Then he dominated the PDL. His physical training often is too strenuous and takes a toll, but there is no doubt it boosts his stamina for longer games. Other players could copy the Taylor regime, but they too might have a drop in form in the early stages,? he warned.
As well as commentating on darts, Sid is trying to keep himself busy when he is away from the commentary box.
?I have Bellies and Bullseyes ? The Outrageous True Story of Darts, coming out in August from Ebury Press. I am also working on a funny Geordie Dictionary for Harper Collins, and due out next year,? Waddell said.
The Holsten Premier League Darts playoffs return to Sky Sports 1 on Monday 28th live from the Brighton Centre.