PETALING JAYA: It could be lights out for Malaysia in the Thomas Cup Finals in India next year – judging by the recent performances of the national shuttlers.
With just six months to go before the Finals, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei believes that Malaysia are not prepared for the prestigious team event in New Delhi next May based on two factors – the inconsistent performances of the men’s singles shuttlers and the lack of depth in men’s doubles.
“I don’t think we are ready for the Thomas Cup Finals,” said Chong Wei without flinching when asked to assess Malaysia’s strength as a team based on the players’ performances this year.
At the recent back-to-back Opens in Denmark and France, singles shuttlers Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng sank into oblivion as they made early exits.
As for men’s doubles, top pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong reached the final of the French Open but fell tamely to Indonesia’s Markis Kido-Gideon Markus Fernaldi.
Second pair Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong did well to upset reigning Denmark Open champions Lee Yong-dae-Yoo Yeon-seong but are still inconsistent.
There are no other credible or dependable men’s pairs, not after the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) split up six pairs recently.
“The performances of Daren and Wei Feng at the Denmark and French Opens showed that they are not stable. I believe that Koo-Tan will only improve after reaching the final of the French Open but, for now, we do not have any solid second and third men’s doubles pairs,” said Chong Wei
“A team’s victory is decided over five events and we need to be strong in at least four. It will be a big risk to aim for three points ... we need to add depth to the team.”
Chong Wei, who has featured in every Finals since 2004, has vowed to play his role as the country’s first singles and inspire the others to improve in the next few months.
“The Thomas Cup Finals is one of the major tournaments for me next year. The coaches and BAM will have to look into preparing the best team for the Finals. I promise to do my part,” said the 31-year-old after the launch of a new 100Plus isotonic drink to commemorate Fraser and Neave Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd’s 130th anniversary in Sunway yesterday.
Chong Wei knows that he can’t carry Malaysia’s challenge on his own and that it will have to be a team effort at the Finals.
According to the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) new ruling, qualification will depend on the team’s overall ranking points, which means the ranking of all team members is important.
For next year’s Finals, India and China are assured of their places in the 16-team field by virtue of being the hosts and defending champions. The others teams will be determined by their current world rankings.
Of the 14 teams, there must be one representative each from Africa, Pan America and Oceania and at least three from Europe and Asia.