KUALA LUMPUR: National singles shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin won only one match in the Indonesia Super League (ISL) but he has certainly gained in terms of experience.
In fact, the exciting adventure in Surabaya has sparked the fire in him to go all out and win the right to represent the country in this year’s Thomas Cup Finals in May at New Delhi.
Malaysia’s campaign in the ongoing ISL ended on Friday after the Iskandar-led Malaysian Tigers lost three out of their four Group ties.
Their record reads: Lost to Taiwan Cooperative Bank 4-1 (Tuesday); beat SGC Thailand 3-2 (Wednesday); lost 5-0 to Jaya Raya Jakarta (Thursday); and lost 3-2 to Hi-Qua Wima Surabaya (Friday).
For Iskandar, who played first singles in all the ties, the highlight was when he held world No. 3 Tommy Sugiarto of Jaya Raya Jakarta by the throat before going down 21-23, 18-21 in 43 minutes.
“For me, playing against Tommy was exciting. That was the first time I played against a world No. 3 and I’m happy that I gave him a good fight. Overall, our team did okay,” he said.
Iskandar also lost to two others – Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan Cooperative Bank (17-21, 19-21) and Sitthikom Thammasin of SCG Thailand (14-21, 21-15, 20-22). His only win was against Arief Gifar Rhamadan of Hi-Qua Wima Surabaya (22-20, 21-16, 21-19).
But the 23-year-old Iskandar is just happy to have had the opportunity to play first singles and captain the team.
“It was just good experience for me. I’ve never played first singles before and, as the team captain, I had to ensure team morale was always high. The crowd here was intimidating but we did quite okay,” he said.
“All of us in the team are about the same age and we had discussions before and after every tie with our coaches. We had all our meals together and there was just a great camaraderie.”
The others in the team are Goh Soon Huat, Chong Yee Han, Tan Kian Meng, Teo Ee Yi-Nelson Heg Wei Keat, Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han and Low Juan Seng.
Iskandar, who will return home on Sunday, hopes that he had done enough to impress the selectors for a spot in the Thomas Cup Finals.
“The experience in Surabaya has whetted my appetite to play in the Finals. It is every player’s ambition to be a Thomas Cupper and I will be out to prove myself in the next few tournaments,” said Iskandar, who will compete in the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold from March 25-30.
He has a chance to make the cut for the Finals as Malaysia are searching for one more singles player to complete the cast. The three already assured of featuring in the Finals are Lee Chong Wei, Chong Wei Feng and Liew Daren.