National no.3 singles shuttler Liew Daren, seen here training at Juara Stadium on Monday, has been picked as the Thomas Cup team captain.
KUALA LUMPUR: Surprise, surprise!
The team captain for the Thomas Cup Finals is not world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei but Liew Daren.
The selection of the team captain was made by all the men’s team members after checking into centralised training camp on Monday.
Others in the team are Chong Wei Feng, Goh Soon Huat, Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong, Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem, Tan Boon Heong and Chan Peng Soon. The Thomas Cup Finals will be held in New Delhi from May 18-25.
As for the Uber Cup Finals, doubles shuttler Amelia Anscelly has been named the team captain.
Although surprised, the 27-year-old Daren hopes to play his part – as the team captain and the third singles – to the best of his ability.
“I was surprised by the team’s choice but, I guess, it was also Chong Wei’s way of encouraging me to take up this role. I’ll do my best to support the team and facilitate communication between coaches and players,” said Daren.
This will be Daren’s second Thomas Cup Finals but one that could make – or break – his badminton career.
If the tie goes all the way to the decider, the weight of the nation will be on Daren’s shoulder to deliver the goods. Since winning the French Open title in 2012, Daren’s form has been inconsistent, no thanks to a series of injuries.
“I’m in better shape now,” said Daren, referring to his nagging hamstring injury.
“Today, we had a gym session in the morning and three hours of tough training on court in the afternoon. It was tough but good. It will help me prepare for the Finals,” said Daren at the Juara Stadium.
Malaysia are in Group C with South Korea, Germany and host India.
Of all the third singles players from all the top countries, Daren has a good record against everyone expect for China. He has not beaten any players from China and has yet to play against South Korea’s Hwang Jang-soo.
He has beaten Indonesia’s Simon Santoso, Japan’s Takuma Euda, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and India’s R.M.V. Gurusaidutt.
“I have narrowed down all my possible opponents and will analyse their games. My first Finals in Wuhan two years ago gave me a lot of experience. I will be ready,” said Daren.
Daren, who was the second singles player at Wuhan in 2012, was forced to play as the first singles against Lin Dan of China in a quarter-final tie in the absence of an injured Chong Wei. Malaysia lost 3-0 to China.