KUALA LUMPUR: Former international Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif was jumping for joy after getting a chance to win a place in the squad for the Thomas Cup Finals from May 18-25 in New Delhi.
The 30-year-old Zakry is one of the few former national players who have been invited by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to take part in the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals selection trial on March 19 at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara.
The other men’s doubles players are Zakry’s partner Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari and Koo Kien Keat, who recently quit the national team.
Also invited are the Ng sisters, Hui Lin and Hui Ern, and five men’s singles players – former national champion Misbun Ramdan Misbun, former world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkiffli, Tan Chun Seang, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif and Chan Kwong Beng.
It is the first time BAM are officially conducting a selection trial for the Finals.
Previously, the national body had recalled singles players Wong Choong Hann and Hafiz Hashim for national duty after their retirement but they did not have to go through trials.
The chubby Zakry gave BAM a thumbs-up for finally acting in a more transparent manner in selecting the best players for the nation – especially for a major tournament.
“I could not believe it when I received the official letter asking me and Fairuz to attend,” said Zakry.
He left BAM in 2010, the same year after representing the country at the Thomas Cup Finals in Kuala Lumupur, to become an independent player.
“At least the BAM are transparent and open with their selection process now. It also shows that the national body still have faith in us”.
Each country can have a maximum of 10 players for the Finals and Malaysia may opt for four singles and three doubles pairs.
For now, in the men’s doubles, only reigning Malaysian Open champions Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem and national number one Hoon Thein How-Tan Wee Kiong look good to win their places. That means, there should be space for one more doubles pair.
BAM have the option of choosing Zakry-Fairuzizuan or Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, or picking any one of them and teaming him up with any of the younger ones in their stable like Ow Yao Han, Chooi Kah Ming or Teo Eei Yi.
In the men’s singles, three-time All-England champion Lee Chong Wei and Chong Wei Feng are as good as confirmed.
Liew Daren, who failed to come through the qualifying tournament at last week’s All-England, top back-up shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and Goh Soon Huat will have to battle it out with the former internationals to earn their right.
Based on current form, Ramdan looks good to steal the third singles.
In the women’s doubles, the inclusion of Hui Lin-Hui Ern for the trial is timely as Malaysia are facing a shortage of quality women players. With Goh Liu Ying nursing a knee injury, the world No. 23 and England-based Hui Lin-Hui Ern’s presence in the Uber Cup Finals is likely to strengthen the women’s team.