PETALING JAYA: National men’s singles head coach Datuk Misbun Sidek is cool with having Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin lining up as the national No. 2 for the Thomas Cup Finals in Bangkok from May 20-27.
The 26-year-old Iskandar climbed two rungs to No. 47 in the world on the back of his quarter-final finish at the China Masters last week.
That was enough for Iskandar to overtake Lee Zii Jia, who dropped three rungs to No. 48 following a disappointing second-round exit in China.
It certainly throws Malaysia’s preparation for the Thomas Cup into a slight disarray as both Iskandar and Zii Jia are not competing in the ongoing Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) in Wuhan.
The Asian meet serves as the last tournament before the Finals’ entry deadline on May 6.
Misbun is, however, unperturbed as he believes Iskandar, who performed well as the second singles during the Asian Team Championships in Kedah in February, is showing signs of better things to come.
“I believe there are benefits from the ranking movements. Iskandar moving up will only serve as motivation for other players to keep pushing hard,” said Misbun.
“I am confident that both of them will perform to expectations at the Finals next month.
“I am also not too worried about Zii Jia even though his form has dropped a little.
“He is doing well in training but because of his performances, he has become a target for other players so that’s where he needs to adapt.”
Iskandar, Zii Jia and three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei are the only ones confirmed for the Finals so far.
The fourth spot is anyone’s guess although youngsters Leong Jun Hao, Cheam June Wei and Tan Jia Wei have staked a claim for it.
Misbun certainly had some good words for 20-year-old Jia Wei, who finished strongly as the runner-up at the Malaysian International Challenge last week.
“Jia Wei has the potential, judging from his Polish Open success last year. Unfortunately he didn’t progress much over the year,” said Misbun.
“Last week’s showing is certainly a good start and I believe he needs to be given serious attention and a specific training programme too.
“If he can cope and keep pushing himself, I believe he can go far as well,” added Misbun.
Malaysia are drawn with Russia, Algeria and defending champions Denmark in Group D in the Thomas Cup Finals.
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