BUKIT JALIL: Does Malaysia have the talent in the men’s singles department to replace world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei?
Based on last year’s results and current form, there are eight potential shuttlers. Sadly, all of them are still under the radar in the international scene.
Six of them are Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) players – Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Goh Soon Huat, Choong Yee Han, Tan Kian Meng, Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi – and two independent players – Misbun Ramdan Misbun and Zulfadli Zulkifli.
Except for Joo Ven, Yee Han and Kian Meng, the rest took part in the ongoing Maybank Malaysian Open but none cleared the qualifying tournament at the Putra Stadium on Tuesday.
All of them put up fighting displays but still were not good enough to pull off a breakthrough.
How much longer will it take for them to join the big league?
China are already leaps and bounds ahead of Malaysia. So are countries like Indonesia, South Korea and even Japan, Thailand and India.
Currently, the focus is only on Chong Wei and two others – Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng.
But neither Daren nor Wei Feng has been able to come close to Chong Wei’s standard despite having been in the national team for almost eight years.
BAM had made a bold statement once, proclaiming that they have four world champions in the making. But can even one cut the mustard?
Actually, these players can – but only if BAM take greater interest and invest heavily on them from now on.
No more holding them back from major tournaments. No more treating them like small boys.
They should be groomed to strike it big for the period between the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
BAM also must not neglect the other much younger shuttlers like Cheam June Wei, R. Satheishtharan and Tan Jia Wei.
The 31-year-old Chong Wei probably has another two good years left in him – barring any injuries. By then, this group of players should be knocking vigorously on the doors of stardom.
But will they be ready?