The Indonesian Badminton Federation put its faith in youth, but some former shuttlers think that leap of faith may be a bit too far.
The federation, or PBSI, completed its roster of 20 players for the 2009 Sudirman Cup,
the biennial mixed team championship. Though it publicly said it would consider calling in professional players, half of its squad consists of players with no team format experience.
PBSI officials said this is the right time for player regeneration, giving a chance to younger players to develop their games at the tournament, which takes place in Guangzhou, China, on May 10-17.
Former player Alan Budikusuma agreed with the decision to incorporate the young players, but he also suggested the PBSI involve several experienced players in preparing the squad.
“They can be sparring partners, even if the PBSI refused to put their names in the squad,” the Barcelona Olympics men’s singles gold medalist said. “They are still needed for their experiences in such events.”
According to Alan, the squad has weaknesses in men’s and women’s singles and women’s doubles. He said Sony Dwi Kuncoro, who only recently returned from a wrist injury, has a large burden as the top men’s singles shuttler in the absence of Taufik Hidayat.
Indonesia will be without its top two women’s singles players. Maria Kristin Yulianti is still nursing a knee injury, and national No. 2 Adrianti Firdasari is recovering from typhoid.
In women’s doubles, Alan said the two pairs selected — Shendy Puspa Irawati and Meiliana Jauhari, and Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari — are unlikely to be as solid as Liliyana Natsir and Vita Marissa, who played a large role in last year’s Uber Cup women’s team championship.
“It will be hard for Indonesia at the championship,” said Alan, who was part of Indonesia’s second-place finishes in 1993 and 1995. “I think reaching the semifinals will be the best achievement as tougher rivals like China will be hard to beat.”
“I hope our players just maximize the three weeks left to prepare before leaving for the championship,” he added.
Former men’s doubles player Candra Wijaya echoed the concerns about players returning from recent injuries. In addition to Sony, Maria and Adrianto, men’s doubles shuttler Markis Kido only recently returned from a knee injury.
“They could be our squad's weaknesses,” the Sydney Olympic gold medalist said. “This is where the unexperienced players must play their roles to back up the injured ones.”
On Wednesday, the PBSI called up one last player into its squad, adding women’s singles shuttler Linda Wenifanetri as cover for Maria and Adrianti.
China is the two-time defending Sudirman Cup champion, having defeated Indonesia in the 2005 and 2007 finals. Indonesia, which has six runner-up finishes, has not won the tournament since hosting the inaugural edition in 1989.