INDEPENDENT shuttlers can harbour hopes of playing for the country in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Thomas Cup Finals as the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will hold open trials to select the squads next year.
Previously, the selection for these events had been based on world rankings and results but the BAM executive committee (exco), chaired by president Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, has approved a proposal to have open trials for the first time.
Tengku Mahaleel said while most of the players would be from the national team, he also wants to make sure that external options, including from the states, are not discounted to give Malaysia a better chance of doing well in the three events.
This will come as good news for professional players Misbun Ramdan Misbun and Zulfadli Zulkifli and men's doubles Zakry Latif-Fairuzizuan Tazari and Gan Teik Chai-Ong Soon Hock.
"We have already planned the programme for the Thomas Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. There will also be open trials for the first time to select the best squad," said Tengku Mahaleel.
"While the national players will take up most spots, we also don't want to miss out on the options that we have outside the national team and the trials will give everyone a chance.
"The preparations for the main events next year will also have an improved approach as we are not satisfied with our achievements -- barring the outstanding performance of Lee Chong Wei. I also hope that Chong Wei can impart his knowledge and guide the younger players.
"We are working closely with the National Sports Institute (NSI) to improve one of the main weaknesses of the players -- physical condition.
"It is not that our players are not going through conditioning but they may have been taking short cuts and this will be rectified. They will be going through an eight-week programme planned by NSI to make sure they are well prepared."
The exco also approved Tan Kim Her to continue his current role as the men's doubles coach and this means his contract, which ends in February, will be extended for another two weeks.
Kim Her may not continue his additional role as an assessor as Tengku Mahaleel hinted the position may not be needed for the national team.
Another independent assessor, Razif Sidek could also find himself without much to do unless he is willing to travel throughout the nation and monitor the progress at the state level.
The exco, which approved the competition budget for 2014, has also given an allocation to identify four assistant coaches where candidates from the states will also be considered.