Prakash Jiwa is a British Indian darts player currently playing on the PDC Tour. He is by far the greatest player in the sport to come out of India and has won a tour card through Qualifying School to compete at Professional Darts Corporation events on three occasions.
I caught up with him to get a few insights and thoughts on his journey in the darting circuit and get his take on what it takes to play on the brightest stages among the best players.
How long have you been playing Darts?
I have been playing darts for almost 30 years now.
How did you get into the sport of Darts?
It was just something that happened by accident really, I was bored one day and cracked open up a set of darts that a friend of mine gave me as a present a few years ago and went up to our local Indian community center and started throwing and found out I was actually not that bad compared to some of the locals that were playing there, and that’s how it started. After a few months I was eventually asked to play for a local working men’s club and then within just a few years I was not only playing for a local team but for my town of Rugby in the Super League and then for my county of Warwickshire.
What are the hardships you’ve faced in your darting journey so far and how have you overcome them?
There are many good and talented players around the world and I found it very difficult to accept defeat, especially when it was to somebody who I had thought I was better than or higher ranked than, but in the last 15 years of my career, I have learned to accept that defeat is possible and to overcome this I do not get so disappointed as much as I used too. I try to not dwell on what I could of done better and instead go back to the practice board and try to put it right for my next matches and adopting this mentality has made me become a better player.
There is also a financial hardship to overcome as it was very difficult to find a sponsor and when you have to fund everything yourself then there is an added pressure when you are playing which really you can do without. One thing leads to another though, if you play well enough then you get prize money and hopefully sponsorship which I have been fortunate to get throughout most of my professional career.
What is your practice schedule when approaching a tournament and when not?
As I work a regular job 50 hours a week it is very difficult to get time to practice but I currently make time and try to practice for about 1 or 2 hours per day a week before tournament as I play on the professional circuit and you have to give yourself the best possible start.
When I first started playing I would practice up to 5 or 6 hours a day but as you get older this becomes more difficult to do. I also try to practice at varied times of the day and night i.e. early morning, afternoon, late at night etc. as this will help you should you ever be faced with playing at awkward times during any tournament.
Help us look inside your head – How different is your mental approach towards a practice session and a game?
Totally different mindset to when you are practicing and playing a match. There are added pressures during the game i.e. the outcome whether you win or lose and the fact that you are playing for thousands of pounds which could change your life, you do not think of these things when practicing as the outcome of practice is not relevant, you can practice rubbish but still win a darts match! Which you don’t experience or cannot practice for.
Most darts players have a schedule before match day or on match day, some call this superstition, others call it routine – What do you do to get yourself ready for match day and how do you think it helps you?
It is always best to have a clear and stress free mind when going into a game but unfortunately this is not going to be always possible due to life circumstances etc. however to calm me and my thoughts before a match I do have a small drink of alcohol to calm my nerves which helps me but is not right for everyone so you must decide what is going to be good for you to get into this calm state. Also I like to get to the venue as early as possible so that I can get used to the surroundings and give myself sufficient time to practice and get ready.
Darts is mental game as many people who play it eventually realize – How do you fight back when you’re down in a game? Is there any way in which you can explain – How to handle pressure in such moments?
From personal experience, I tend to put my headphones on whilst practicing before the match and listen to music which I find calming and soothing and also music that gets me excited and motivated as I tend to think about these songs depending on what situation I am in the game i.e. if I am down in the match then I call upon a song in my head that will lift me up and give me that willpower to fight and on another note if I am far in front then I recall upon a song that allows me to remain calm and down to earth. I currently have on my play list ” Hanuman Chalisa ” as I believe that calms me down when I listen to it and also lots of reggae music which gives me that fight that I need, I appreciate everyone is different so you must listen to whatever helps you.
What are the most important aspects of a player that a newcomer should try and learn if they want to get into the sport of Darts?
Confidence is a great thing to have and if you do not have this, then I am afraid darts is not going to be a good thing to get into, but if you possess it then it’s a good start. I think everyone can play darts but what stands out from being a good player to becoming a great player is confidence – that’s all. It is always good to have some sort of technique as well like stance and arm action etc. which can be taught and also having/using the correct equipment is also a major factor, but things like this can be worked on if you have the right mentor….i am quite fortunate that I play with the top stars like Phil Taylor, Micheal Van Gerwen, Peter Wright, Gary Anderson and many more whom I regard as friends who also help me with their experience which I am still learning from.
What’s your fondest memory so far in the time that you’ve played Darts?
Hitting the perfect nine dart finish at a European qualifier and then playing in front of a crowd of 2000 people in Dusseldorf, Germany who are all chanting my name before, during and after my game on stage and then for days after.
What memory do you regret or wish you had a do over?
I wished I had joined the PDC earlier than I did as I believe I could have made a very good career judged on my ability then.
What’s your darts nickname and how did it come to be?
I’m known by the nickname “Apache ” because of me being Indian and apache was a form of Red Indian etc. and the name just stuck after somebody shouted it out at a local darts match.
What darts do you use?
22gram Bulls, but Showtime darts are currently in the process of making my own brand as sponsored by them.
Who is your favorite Darts Player?
Got to be Phil Taylor due to what he has achieved in this game but I think Adrian Lewis is the most naturally gifted player I have seen, a bit like Ronnie O Sullivan in snooker, he makes the game look so easy.
What’s your favorite double?
What’s your favorite finish combination?
My favorite finish would have to be 141 ( T20,T19,D12 ) as I tend to practice this one quite a lot just in case I manage to hit the two 180’s before this!
Father time is undefeated – When it’s all said and done and you do retire from the game what do you wish you had accomplished in the sport?
Just being recognized and acknowledged for being a good player around the world and playing the game in the correct spirit and hopefully be able to pass on my knowledge and experience to all Indian darts players around the world.
Your last thoughts – Do you have anything that you would like to say to whoever reads this interview?
I would encourage everyone to take up this wonderful game of darts, as it could change your life if you become successful. Don’t be frightened to have a go and always believe in yourself. I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many places around the world and have met many wonderful people along the way due to darts and would sincerely recommend it.
I know that I was born in England, but I am Indian and I will always be Indian, and my whole family for generations are from India and that’s where my roots lie. It would be a great honor and privilege for me one day to be able to represent my mother country of India at a sport which is becoming more and more global by the day. Unfortunately due to the political agenda, I do not think this is going to be possible; however dreams do sometimes come true.
For more details on Prakash and his current tournament participations you can log on to http://www.prakashjiwadarts.co.uk/