KUALA LUMPUR: It used to be the Sidek and Hashim brothers. Now, it’s the turn of the Abdul Latif brothers — Mohd Arif and Mohd Zakry.
Yesterday, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) took a big chance by naming Arif as the fourth men’s singles player in the Thomas Cup squad.
The debutant will join the country’s top three players – Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann and Mohd Hafiz Hashim – for the Finals, which will be held in Jakarta from May 11-18.
The inclusion of Arif’s elder brother, Zakry, is not a surprise though it will still be his first Thomas Cup Finals appearance with Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari in the men’s doubles.
They will join the country’s top two pairs – Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong.
A surprised Arif said he was happy that he and his brother would be playing in their first major tournament for the country.
“This is a real big surprise for me. I know my name was mentioned but I really did not think that I would be selected. There were other experienced players. I just brushed it off as a joke. Now, all of a sudden, I will feature for Malaysia in the Thomas Cup Finals. This is unbelievable,” said Arif, 19.
“I am so grateful to all my coaches. This is really a moment of reckoning for me.”
Arif, who graduated from the Bukit Jalil Sports School to the Project 2010-2012 squad this year, made heads turn with his first big upset against Hong Kong’s Chan Yan Kit in the last week’s Asian Badminton Championships (ABC).
But more than the win, it was the way that the skilful Arif took on his opponent – without fear – that won the selectors’ admiration.
“I may be the reserve but I will not cave in if I am thrown into the fray. One thing about me is that I am not easily rattled when up against higher ranked players. In fact, I feel more motivated,” he added.
After the disappointment of being sidelined from the Finals two years ago, Zakry is thrilled to finally get the chance to feature in the Finals.
“I did not want to believe it until this official announcement. And what makes it even more memorable is that I will be playing alongside my brother in a major tournament for the first time. This is a great honour for the Abdul Latif brothers,” said Zakry.
“This is a big challenge for Arif and I am confident he will give his best.”