Monday, 10 June 2019

World Cup format

Nice of Willie O'Connor to take the results of the Scotland half knocking him out of the provisional Grand Slam places using the "this is fine" approach, powering through to the final with Steve Lennon, to grab the 12/13 priority as it stands, and with Peter Wright getting into the list now (nice to see Scotland finally claim the title), it's hard to see too many players who could legitimately knock one or both of them out. Suljovic could certainly threaten, but then after that you're looking at the likes of White, Lewis, Chisnall, Durrant or someone a bit more outlandish making a run to the final of one of the Matchplay, Grand Prix, Champions League or World Series finals. You could see one or two maybe doing something, but you need four to knock one of them out - and in the Champions League, it's more or less just Suljovic (if he's even able to get back in the top 8 by the cutoff) that could play there. It seems unlikely.

But to the reason for the post. There's been some talk on Twitter about how there's too much of a singles slant on things, Simon Whitlock being one player that's mentioned this (does he post if him and Anderson don't both lose their singles games to Canada?), and I think it's a fair point. I'm not the biggest fan of doubles, or of the tournament in general, but I think there's the potential to make one change that would address this, and also have the side effect of giving more players - especially from areas that don't normally get a great deal of TV time - the chance to play on a big stage. Make it three man teams.

How would you do this and keep things running in a reasonable timeframe? Here's what I'd do:

Round 1 - One game of triples, exactly the same as the current doubles except every player has to play.

Round 2/QF/SF - Three games of pairs. Teams select the order for players to sit a game out. If you've got one really good player, do you get him in early, or risk leaving it to the final game and not getting there? Tactics ahoy!

Final - Expand to seven sets, have it go:

AB v AB
C v C
AC v AC
B v B
BC v BC
A v A
ABC v ABC

So three sets of doubles and singles, with triples as a decider if needed. If it gets to the very end, everyone's going to have to contribute. In every round, everyone needs to contribute. It shouldn't affect timings at all, you might need to start the final session a bit earlier, which I think's doable as the format in the afternoon session doesn't exactly lend itself to long matches.

There's one pressing issue that needs addressing - how would adding a third player to each country affect the competitive balance of the tournament? I don't think it would make an enormous issue - if anything, it limits the reliance a team can have on one player (like Wattimena), and there can't be a huge number of countries that have two good players then a huge dropoff. Let's look at the teams we had this year and put up some potential third wheels - nothing scientific, I'm not going back through the rankings to work out who someone would be for certain, I'm just chucking potential names out there:

England: Cross, Smith (Wade/Chisnall/Aspinall/Lewis/whoever)
Scotland: Anderson, Wright (Henderson)
Wales: Price, Clayton (Lewis)
Netherlands: van Gerwen, Wattimena (de Zwaan)
Australia: Whitlock, Anderson (Cadby)
Northern Ireland: Gurney, Dolan (Mansell)
Belgium: Huybrechts, van den Bergh (other Huybrechts/de Decker)
Austria: Suljovic, Lerchbacher (Rodriguez)
Brazil: Portela, Valle (Rangel)
Canada: Murschell, Long (Smith, Part, Fatum)
China: Zong, Liu (anyone who can get a visa)
Czech Republic: Sedlacek, Jirkal (Benecky)
Denmark: Laursen, Heinsoe (come back to me on Thursday - Lokken maybe? Dartistik I'm looking in your direction)
Finland: Kantele, Viljanen (ULF)
Germany: Hopp, Schindler (Clemens)
Gibraltar: Parody, Lopez (Duo)
Greece: Michael, Symeonidis (Pantelidis)
Hong Kong: Lam, Leung (Shek)
Hungary: Szekely, Vesgo (Kovacs)
Ireland: Lennon, O'Connor (Cullen/McGowan/one of the kids)
Italy: Micheletti, Tomassetti (Petri)
Japan: Asada, Muramatsu (Ono, Suzuki?)
Lithuania: Labanauskas, Barauskas (Sakys)
New Zealand: Harris, Puha (Irwin surely can leave the country by then, Parry etc otherwise)
Philippines: Ilagan, Malicdem (Perez)
Poland: Ratajski, Kanik (Kciuk)
Russia: Koltsov, Kadochnikov (Dobromyslova?)
Singapore: Lim, Lim (find a third Lim?)
South Africa: Petersen, Bouwers (Scheffer, Arendse)
Spain: Reyes, Alcinas (Perales)
Sweden: Nilsson, Caris (Larsson, Engstrom, gonna need two now, thank you Magnus)
USA: Young, Puleo (Butler still active? Lauby? Gates?)

I think oddly enough that the team that would get done over most by such a change would be our beaten finalists, although that's maybe only because they're a couple of years away from some of the youngsters making a real breakthrough - McGowan could hold his own at least. I don't think any of the teams that are already strong would suddenly become unbeatable, and I don't think that it would hugely affect the balance amongst the teams with large pre tournament title equity. It'd also probably help the German team the most, given the really small gap in quality between Clemens and the current team (if you're not going to argue that Clemens is better than Schindler already), and we all know the PDC would do almost anything to boost the German market. The lower tier teams would remain that way, but if some of the middling teams get diluted a bit, maybe more would be able to pull off an upset.

It is a bit odd in that this has been one of the better World Cups I remember us having in recent years, but it's also the one which has created the most discussion. I do think there is a bit of a gap in the market for doubles tournaments (maybe they could hold a one off event the day prior to the Grand Prix - think of the puns), and I think that there's certainly big value in getting more players from around the world onto the stage. This'd possibly tie both of these together nicely. Thoughts?

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