Wednesday 14 December 2022

(13) Cullen, (16) Evans, ($$$) Sherrock

Joe Cullen - FRH #11, 635-509 (55.51%), 91.98 scoring (#21), 4.34 consistency
Ricky Evans - FRH #49, 361-359 (50.14%), 88.82 scoring (#60), 4.87 consistency
Fallon Sherrock - FRH #80, 13-26 (33.33%), 84.99 scoring (#84), 4.74 consistency

Has it been a good season for Ricky Evans, or has it generally been more of the same, namely doing enough to stop around in the top 64, but not doing enough to get back towards the top 32, which he was just creeping into two or three years ago? Probably a little bit of both. The scoring is not quite there, but it's certainly not bad, and there have been some decent results, mostly early in the season where he had a new best run in the UK Open, reaching the last sixteen with wins over Danny Jansen, Darius Labanauskas and Scott Waites before putting in a disappointing performance against Keane Barry, and March also saw his best floor run in quite some time, going all the way to a final with wins against Chris Dobey, Mensur Suljovic and Danny Noppert along the way, but he may look at it as a chance lost against Jim Williams in the final. The early part of the season wasn't too bad, actually making seven more board finals up to June, but the form guide doesn't look great after that, as in the thirteen Pro Tour events from July onwards, Ricky has nine first round defeats, with his only wins coming against Meulenkamp, Raman, de Vos, Jansen and Kist, hardly an A-list of scalps, and as far as I can see, only one of his defeats came against a top 32 player, so a worrying run of form, which continued in Europe with no qualification for any of the last seven events, and while he did get to Minehead thanks to those early season results, he lost in the opening game to Andrew Gilding. I touched on Europe, he did get into three events early on and had a bit of success, reaching the seed every time and only lost to Joe Cullen - in Austria he beat Heta then went further with a whitewash of Jansen before getting pipped at the post by Aspinall, and in Prague he was also able to whitewash Ratajski but then slump to a defeat to Cross. So we've seen the highlights, but not for around six months or so. Which is a worry.

Let's cut to the chase here - Sherrock is here purely for commercial reasons and ratings, if the PDC want to give a worlds spot to the women's Matchplay, that's fine, but doing it retroactively is pretty ridiculous and may well have fucked over plenty of tour card holders who would otherwise reasonably be expecting the spare slot to go to the PDPA qualifier. If you think they would have done the same if de Graaf, Hedman, Suzuki etc had won the Matchplay, you're deluded. But let's talk about what she's done in terms of darts, and it's really not a lot. She did win that Matchplay, albeit with low 80 averages throughout and having dodged playing Ashton who lost to de Graaf in the semi final. She was only third on the women's series, winning just the three events compared to the eight from Greaves and seven from Ashton, sure she missed out on some due to playing the World Series, but that's a choice she made. She finished with zero points in the second stage of UK Q-School, so wasn't close to getting a card in the slightest, she's not bothered to play the Challenge Tour at all this year and paid more money in entry fees than she won in prizes the previous year, she's barely played any women's events outside the PDC system other than one weekend in Wales, as such she's ranked outside the top 40 in the WDF system, capped by a ridiculous WDF worlds hokey-cokey situation. It's just been the World Series. 71 average, lose to Leonard Gates. 73 average, lose to Kuivenhoven. 73 average, lose to Mathers. 82 average, lose to Kayden Milne. Sure, she did beat a woefully under par Labanauskas and also Mal Cuming, but who cares really. In some ways I kind of feel sorry for how this world tour has been delayed and how Sky are continuing to milk things way beyond a sell by date, but at the same time, she can always say no to things and could at least try to rebuild her game on the floor. I'm already way beyond lost interest, she should lose this one easily, but with Ricky's form at rock bottom, don't be surprised if she does win and we get another round of ridiculous hyperbole.

Cullen's been a frustrating one from a handicapping point of view this season. His scoring is definitely not spectacular in the slightest - it's outside the top twenty of players who have reached the world championship, there's nothing in the consistency that is giving us a clue, yet at the same time he's outperforming in terms of results frequently, as such we've not bet on him once this year, we've bet against him more than anyone else, and we've lost two thirds of those bets, although with sizing/odds considerations, we're only slightly down on him. This year, he won a first TV title with the Masters, which also got him into the Premier League for no real reason, and there he continued to produce really confusing results - the lowest average of anyone there by a clear two points, but he still made the playoffs, then beat Clayton in the semi and had a championship dart against MvG, not taken. Crazy stuff. In ranked games, Cullen's best performance came in Hungary, where he added a third Euro Tour title to his resume, beating Lukeman, Jim Williams, Rusty, Chisnall and O'Connor - perhaps a fortunate run opponents, but you can only beat what's in front of you after all. Cullen was also able to add himself to the list of players who've won two Pro Tours in a weekend, when he did so at Players Championships 3-4 back in February, defeating Damon Heta and Dimitri van den Bergh in the finals. I suppose the next step is a ranked TV run, and while he added a couple of quarter finals, through getting through a moderately easy Grand Slam group and then running into van Duijvenbode who was having a bad day, then more recently at Minehead getting through Rowby, Huybrechts and Scott Williams, maybe a little bit more could be done. He drew Peter Wright in the UK Open, which is fair enough, took advantage of an underperforming on TV Damon Heta twice at Blackpool and Leicester then hitting van Gerwen and Price, which I suppose is also fair enough, and then in Dortmund he played the eventual champion in round one who was averaging near 102 at the time. Which we can excuse. So maybe he couldn't do much more. Still, this isn't the worst section, with Heta being the opposing seed whose number he's had, and none of the big three in his quarter, maybe this is the year where he improves on a moderately poor historical world championship record.

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