PETALING JAYA: Malaysia prefer to look at the absence of S. Sivasangari and Andrea Lee for the South-East Asian Squash Championships, also known as the SEA Cup, as a blessing in disguise.
World No. 48 Sivasangari has pulled out from the tournament, to be held in Kuching from Feb 14-18, in order to obtain a visa to compete in the Texas Open from Feb 28-March 5.
World No. 87 Andrea is nursing a minor leg injury which she sustained in the Asian Junior Team Championships in Hong Kong last week.
The pair have been replaced by 16-year-old juniors – Lai Wen Li and Ooi Kah Yan. The duo will join Rachel Arnold, 20; Nazihah Hanis, 19; Aifa Azman, 15; and Chan Yiwen, 16, in the team.
Team manager Nik Razeen Nik Daud believes that Sivasangari and Andrea’s withdrawals has opened the door for the juniors to stake a claim for a spot in the SEA Games squad.
“Ideally, we would have wanted our full SEA Games squad to compete in the SEA Cup,” said Nik Razeen.
“It’s unfortunate that Sivasangari can’t make it. As for Andrea, we decided to allow her a little more time to recover.
“Still, it’s not too bad because our team is still very strong ... it’s also a good opportunity for the youngsters to show what they’re made of.
“We’re pretty comfortable in singles and team events, but we’re always on the lookout for the ideal pairings in doubles. So, it would be good for the youngsters to step up to the plate.”
While the women’s team will make do without two of their best players, the Malaysian men’s team – comprising Ng Eain Yow, Mohd Syafiq Kamal, Mohd Addeen Idrakie, Sanjay Singh Chal, Marcus Sim and Darren Rahul Pragasam – should prove too strong for their rivals.
“We’re looking quite comfortable in the men’s events, especially singles and team. We also have the strength in doubles,” said Nik Razeen.
“Singapore are pretty good in doubles, but they’re not sending their two best players – Vivian (Rhamanan) and Samuel (Kang). It would be interesting to see what they have in store.”
Besides Malaysia and Singapore, the other countries competing in the SEA Cup are Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.