NATIONAL singles chief coach Rashid Sidek admits that Malaysia face an uphill task in the Thomas Cup as the national men’s badminton team glaringly lack depth.
However, Rashid is not willing to call time on the misfiring Hafiz Hashim, Kuan Beng Hong and the back-up shuttlers as there is simply nobody to replace them.
While Rashid agreed that Hafiz, 28, and Beng Hong, 27, are past their prime, they are needed for the short term target — the Thomas Cup Finals at Putra Stadium on May 9-16 — and a review will only be done on them after that.
As for back-up shuttlers Chong Wei Feng, Tan Chun Seang, Liew Daren, Arif Latif — who are all under Hendrawan — and Chan Kwong Beng, who is trained by Misbun Sidek, Rashid said a higher degree of commitment in training and faith in their respective coaches are crucial in the next four months in order to perform in the Thomas Cup.
"We only have one world class player in Lee Chong Wei and that is the bitter reality we have to accept. We would love to bring in fresh talent but they are simply not available at the moment, meaning we have to bring out the best from the current back-up players," said Rashid.
"Hendrawan is in charge of the bulk of the players while Kwong Beng is under Misbun and the first thing they should realise is that no-one can become great unless he is willing to show commitment in training.
"In a three-hour training session, they must be able to put in quality effort for at least 90 to 120 minutes but the current batch can’t even last 60 minutes. They simply don’t produce enough quality in training.
"Mindsets must change and they must be able to go the distance and also believe in their coaches’ methods. This is what separates Chong Wei from the rest as he follows Misbun’s regime without hesitance and the results speak for themselves.
"Hendrawan, too, has the experience but the back-up players must be able to withstand the training and they will be more confident once they start achieving results."
Rashid said the players must make Hafiz and Beng Hong as their targets and start beating the two regularly, which will lead to self-belief.
"Hafiz and Beng Hong will most likely make way for the younger players after the Thomas Cup but the back-up players must earn their places on merit.
"They must start beating the seniors. If they can’t beat Hafiz and Beng Hong, I don’t see any hope for them.
"We have to make do with this group as Iskandar (Zulkarnain Zainuddin), Syawal (Ismail) and Misbun Ramdan (Ramdan) have another two years at least before they can make an impact on the international stage."