KUALA LUMPUR: Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin looks set to regain his place in the Asian Games squad – barely a month after he was dropped due to smoking and disciplinary issues.
The 27-year-old is one of three national singles shuttlers – besides Lim Chi Wing and Tan Jia Wei – to replace Lee Chong Wei after the latter withdrew from the quadrennial Games in Indonesia from Aug 18-Sept 2 due to illness.
The trio are the only eligible reserve players as their names were in the list submitted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) earlier in January.
And Iskandar, a two-time Thomas Cupper, is surely the best candidate among the three given his experience and form.
He was also part of the squad that won bronze in the team event in Incheon four years ago.
The other three in the men’s singles line-up are debutants Lee Zii Jia, Leong Jun Hao and Soong Joo Ven and it is unlikely that the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will add another first-timer to the team.
National men’s singles head coach Datuk Misbun Sidek was tight-lipped when asked about the possible replacement.
“I’m looking at the options we have, the reserve players in the long list. I will decide and recommend the name (to the coaching and training committee). I’ll leave it to the association to announce.”
Misbun admitted he’s unsure how the team would fare at the Asian Games without the talismanic Chong Wei.
But the 58-year-old reckons it’s time for the young guns to step out of Chong Wei’s shadow.
“This is what we’ve always been worried about – how do we cope without Chong Wei? Over the years, we’re left to wonder who can replace Chong Wei when he eventually retires,” said Misbun.
“We have to face this inevitable challenge at some point. And with Chong Wei’s withdrawal, perhaps this Asian Games is the best time to put the youngsters to the test.
“I’m still optimistic this batch of players are capable of achieving what’s expected of them.”
BAM secretary Ng Chin Chai has challenged the squad to try to retain the bronze in the team event.
“Hopefully these youngsters will rise to the ocassion to at least equal the bronze medal they won four years ago,” said Chin Chai.
“They should do it for their ‘big brother’.”
The men’s doubles players in the team are Goh V Shem, Tan Wee Kiong, Ong Yew Sin, Teo Ee Yi, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Soon Huat.