One day, will Michael van Gerwen be considered the best dart player ever? James Staniland looks at that possibility.
Grand Slam of Darts – 2015
In my opinion, the Grand Slam of Darts 2015 was the best Grand Slam ever. The addition of four more BDO players (bringing the total to eight) and the stories of Adams and Fordham, ensured that this is a tournament that will be in the minds of dart fans for several years to come.
Adams embraced the tournament like we weren’t sure he would, and the crowd loved him for it. It helped that he played three great games in the group stage, and only lost in a final leg decider to Kim Huybrechts in Round Two. When asked after the match whether he would return in 2016 he said, “I’d love to”.
All that remains before next year is to ensure the real cream of the BDO are there – Glen Durrant was missed, as was Jamie Hughes.
With a sense of darting deja-vu, Michael van Gerwen was stratospheric once again. His performances were absolutely ruthless, the routs of Kim Huybrechts (16-4) in the quarter-final and Michael Smith (16-6) in the semi-final were brilliant. The comeback against Phil Taylor in the final even more impressive, given the Power was on fire early doors.
Michael van Gerwen – Hunger
He seems to be seeing the doubles extremely well at the moment and doesn’t have that lapse for three or four legs when he is well in front anymore – a truly scary proposition going into the forthcoming World Championships.
For someone who is comfortably World Number One, van Gerwen seems to be incredibly hungry to win every tournament he enters. It doesn’t seem to matter that he has earned nearly £1.3 million in prize money over the last two years – he has that edge, that hunger, that hurt when he loses that all dominant sports stars possess.
A fine example of this was him being taught a lesson by Phil Taylor on the stage of the World Matchplay in the summer of 2014. Taylor gave him a schooling in Blackpool, beating him 18-9 – something which MVG rectified this year, by winning the coveted trophy in July. Ok, he didn’t beat Taylor on the way, but the only minor scare he had was in beating Ian White 16-13.
He beat Peter Wright in the semis and James Wade in the final with something to spare. Although Wade stuck with the Green Machine in the early stages of the match, it was a comfortable 18-12 win in the end, with the world number one averaging just under a hundred overall – a fairly low average in comparison to what we know he can produce.
It is this hunger that has drawn comparisons between van Gerwen and Taylor since the former’s dominance of the PDC circuit over the past two years.
van Gerwen as Good as Taylor?
If you consider that Taylor didn’t win his first BDO World Championship until he was 29 back in 1990, we can only speculate as to how many titles the Power would have won if he had started playing professional darts when MVG broke through at 17. He would most probably have won over 20 world titles, which is absolutely staggering.
For van Gerwen to be considered the equal of Taylor in terms of darting achievement is going to be difficult – some would say nigh on impossible.
First and foremost, he would have to be dominant in the toughest era that professional darts has ever known. Secondly, he would need to have the same longevity as Taylor in his career, which would be difficult for a myriad of reasons. Finally, he would have to match or better Taylor’s World Championship record, which given that Taylor’s arguably playing his best darts right now, at 55, and that shows no sign of abating, will be exceptionally hard.
How to be the Greatest Ever…
How to approach this mammoth task of writing himself indelibly into the history books?
Firstly, he would have to sacrifice a great deal of his life to attain the accolade, not just practicing, but travelling all around the world and playing. As a young man he has the fire to play every PDC event on the calendar. Would that hunger be the same by the time he is in his mid-thirties or early forties, as he will inevitably be an extremely wealthy man by then? He would have to be as hungry as Taylor was in his early years, not just for success, but repeated success.
Some of the records Taylor holds will never be beaten, such as winning 65 out of 66 World Championship matches in between 1995 and losing to Barney in the World Final of 2007. MVG would have to set records of that nature, which in this darting age would be virtually impossible. If he managed to set benchmarks of this kind in the greatest era of professional darts, it would be truly astonishing.
During Taylor’s period of total dominance in the World Championship (1995-2002), he was consistently averaging over 100. In that era a 100 average was meteoric darts that a lot of the field couldn’t produce, whereas nowadays it is the benchmark for the top players. Also, vitally, Taylor didn’t have Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade and Peter Wright to contend with during his best years in terms of winning trophies. That shows how difficult it will be for van Gerwen to match Taylor.
He may have to play until he is 55, to stand any chance. Certainly he will have to play that long if he wants to get close in terms of World Championship wins.
The Power – World Champion Again?
I actually believe the Power will win the forthcoming World Championship – from what I have seen of him this year, he will be a massive danger as always in the Sets format of the World Championships.
“I actually believe the Power will win the forthcoming World Championship.”
He has really got to grips with his new darts, and the barrels have been slimmed down slightly so he is hitting more 180’s than ever. As long as he enters the tournament in some kind of form, which I believe he will, this improvement in his power scoring game could be the difference in the longer format matches.
I also believe however, it is within MVG’s power to write himself into the history books as the greatest player ever, or at least be a significant part of the debate and discussion.
He has the talent, but has he the dedication? It is a question which may take a long time to be answered.