Chong Wei: Take it away boys

Malaysia's Zulfadli Zulkifli hits a return to Taiwan's Chou Tien-Chen during their men's singles badminton match at the Total BWF World Championship in Jakarta, August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta

KUALA LUMPUR: Lee Chong Wei wants the youngsters to take the bull by the horns at the Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad, India, from Feb 15-21.

“It is a good chance for them to prove themselves. I challenge them to rise above expectations,” said world No. 5 Chong Wei.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have named a team of debutants for the Hyderabad tournament, which is a qualifying tournament for the Thomas Cup Finals in Kunshan, China, from May 15-22. The 10-member squad consist of Zulfadli Zulkiffli, Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Soo Teck Zhi (pic, below), Soong Joo Ven, Tan Kian Meng-Low Juan Shen, Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi and Tan Chee Tean-Tan Wee Gieen.

Petaling BC's, Soo Teck Zhi  returning a shot to Kepong BC's, Goh Soon Huat during their men's singles match of the Champions Challenge at the Arena of Stars in Genting Highlands on February 6, 2015. Goh Soon Huat won 11-5, 11-5, 11-1. FAIHAN GHANI/The Star.

“Our team should qualify for the Finals based on our team’s world ranking. I hope our youngsters will gain valuable experience in these qualifiers to prepare them for the future,” said Chong Wei.

The Finals will feature 16 teams – hosts China; defending champions Japan; four from Asia; four from Europe; one each from Africa, Oceania and Pan-America; and three more teams based on their world rankings.

Even if Malaysia fail to make it as the top-four teams in Hyderabad, they should sneak into the Finals based on their world No. 6 ranking. The No. 6 ranking is derived from Chong Wei’s fifth spot, Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles world No. 15th) and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (world No. 18th).

Chong Wei said he would definitely play in the Finals in Kunshan.

“I am not going to miss that. For now, we have given the youngsters the opportunity to play at the qualifiers and we hope they will make full use of it,” he said.

By skipping the qualifiers, Chong Wei said he would have more time to prepare for the All-England from March 8-13 and Swiss Open from March 15-20.

“These two tournaments are part of my build-up to the Olympics in August,” said the father of two.

But first, Chong Wei is all focused in doing well at the Malaysian Masters starting at the SPICE Arena in Relau, Penang, on Tuesday.

“I have won many titles in my career but I have never won a big title in my own state. Hopefully, I will be able to change that this week and give my home supporters some cheer.”

The 33-year-old is the top seed at the Grand Prix Gold tournament. He is expected to face second seed K. Srikanth of India in the singles final.

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