Why Badminton England’s Five Point Player Selection Process Is Fundamentally Flawed?

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Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge win gold at the 2019 European Games. (photo: BWF)
Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge win gold at the 2019 European Games. (photo: BWF)

Kuala Lumpur: Badminton England have found themselves on the defensive over their selection of World No. 18 Sean Vendy/Ben Lane over World No. 11 Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge to the Tokyo Olympics.

BadmintonPlanet.com was informed that https://www.mkcommunityhub.com/ has published an article titled “MK Badminton Men’s Duo Selected For Tokyo Olympics Whilst Companions Dispute Decision” and that article showed the Five Point criteria Badminton England was using for its player selection process:

(i) World Ranking as at 15 June 2021;
(ii) Current levels of consistency in performance and fitness;
(iii) Achievements at major events in the past two years;
(iv)Performance against higher ranked pairs at Grade 3 BWF Continental tour
tournaments and above;
(v) Longer term potential (post Tokyo 2020).

The article also said that “From our findings, Vendy & Lane win on points (ii), (iv) and (v) and Langridge and Ellis win on points (i) and (iii). As the selection criteria cannot be weighted, then Vendy & Lane are ahead on 3 out of 5 of the criteria which is why they’ve been selected for the team.”

Per the article, Ellis and Langridge were qualified for points i and iii, we’ll take the opportunity to provide our views on points ii, iv, and v.

a. This selection process is practically unusable as none of the five-point criteria was weighted. Why do we need a weighted system? Because we always need to factor in the level of difficulty when calculating something like this. For example, I can go to the gym and work out every day to get a six-pack (point ii), but that doesn’t mean I can become a World No. 1 badminton player (point i). Becoming World No. 1 or maintaining a consistent top world ranking is much harder and should be considered more important than other criteria.

b. Point ii – Current levels of consistency in performance and fitness. This is a very vague statement because it doesn’t explain “current levels” means how long, in the span of two weeks? two months? or two years? It is also self-contradicting with point iii, if Ellis/Langridge could claim point iii based on their consistent achievements at major events in the past two years, it’s a no-brainer that they were well qualified for point ii.

About fitness, how does Badminton England determine the fitness level of the athletes? By measuring their 100-meter spring record? If yes, Badminton England should release those numbers.

Furthermore, fitness is not everything in badminton. We need skill, experience, strategy, and a lot more in order to win a match. Even if I am in tip-top shape, I will probably be destroyed by Lee Chong Wei or Lin Dan when playing against them in men’s singles, even though they have retired from the sport.

To avoid confusion, we really hope Badminton England could provide more clarification about these criteria.

c. Point iv – Performance against higher-ranked pairs at Grade 3 BWF Continental tour
tournaments and above – again, always be mindful when seeing this type of statement from Badminton England as it doesn’t specify the exact time frame for the requirement, whether it’s looking for performance in the last three weeks, three months or three years? And which higher ranked pair? Any higher-ranked pair in the world?
The charts below showed the total international titles won by Ellis/Langridge and Vendy/Lane since 2016. As seen in the chart, Ellis/Langridge have the best record against World’s top 20 pair at international tournaments since 2016.

Meanwhile, Sean Vendy/Ben Lane’s latest title came from the 2021 Orléans Masters, where they defeated World No. 249 – Krishna Prasad Garaga/Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala from India.

By reading articles published by Badminton England and also https://www.mkcommunityhub.com/, both have made a big deal out of this win by Sean Vendy/Ben Lane against the World No. 249 at the Orléans Masters, and used this as one of a strong justification on why Sean Vendy/Ben Lane were selected to go to the Olympics.

d. Point v – Longer term potential (post Tokyo 2020). How do you know Sean Vendy/Ben Lane have longer-term potential compared to Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge? Based on scientific assessment or based on the psychic power from some fortune-tellers?

Since Badminton England has awarded point v to Sean Vendy/Ben Lane, this could potentially be a case for direct age discrimination.

In badminton, there’s no guarantee that the younger you are, the better potential you have. Let me give you some examples.

Ji Xinpeng of China won the 2000 Sydney Olympics men’s singles gold medal at the age of 23. As everybody was hoping he could be the new king of men’s singles, he quickly faded away from international badminton and retired in 2002 at the age of 25.

The current World No. 2 and 36-year-old men’s doubles player, Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia who won the 2008 Beijing Olympics men’s doubles gold, has been doing extremely well with his current men’s doubles partner – Mohammad Ahsan. They are heavy favorites to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

The London Olympics men’s doubles silver medalist, Mathias Boe of Denmark was also doing exceptionally fantastic until he retired in 2020 due to COVID-19 at the age of 39.

Let’s face it, this could be Langridge’s last Olympics. He and Ellis have put in everything they have in the last few years to clinch that men’s doubles No. 13th spot in the Race to Tokyo rankings for England. It’s not like he did poorly in the world rankings and began to complain about not being selected to Tokyo Olympics. He and Ellis are currently ranked World No. 11, and the No. 1 men’s doubles pair in England. How could someone just step in and rob a real fighting chance from them in the Olympics? Come on!

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