PETALING JAYA: Malaysia men’s team led by Lee Zii Jia are thanking their lucky stars for avoiding top guns Indonesia and Japan again after a redraw in the Asia Team Championships.
They were drawn in Group C with Taiwan and Singapore initially but now face India and Kazakhstan in Group B in the tournament which begins in Manila today.
A fresh draw was made at yesterday’s team managers meeting following the withdrawal of China and Hong Kong.
The two teams had to miss the event as the Philippines government have imposed a ban on travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau, who can’t enter the country without 14 days of quarantine period due to coronavirus concerns.
The tournament serves as qualifiers for the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals in Aarhus, Denmark, from May 19-24. Only the top four teams get the tickets for the Finals.
Malaysia should top the group to avoid Indonesia or Japan in the quarter-finals.
Malaysia’s main threat in the group is India, who boast formidable singles line-up led by World Championships bronze medallist B. Sai Praneeth, former world No. 1 K. Srikanth, Subhankar Dey and Lakshya Sen, the 2018 Asian Junior champion.
Zii Jia appears to be Malaysia’s only bet for the singles point unless Cheam June Wei, and untested duo Leong Jun Hao and Ng Tze Yong can upset the formbooks.
Fortunately for Malaysia, they will face less threat from India’s doubles department following Sat-wiksairaj Rankireddy’s last-minute withdrawal. Satwiksairaj, who forms a world No. 10 partnership with Chirag Shetty, suffered an ankle injury at the just-concluded Premier Badminton League.
National team coaching director Wong Choong Hann expects a pulsating battle between Malaysia and India.
“It’s going to be 50-50. The Indian side will be banking on their singles players, ” said Choong Hann, who is also Malaysia’s team manager.
“We have to win at least a point from the singles at all cost whilst hoping our doubles to deliver the other two.”
Meanwhile, Choong Hann also wants the women’s team to take advantage following the withdrawal of China, Hong Kong and India.
Malaysia and top seeds Japan are assured of their places in the last eight in Hong Kong’s absence from Group W.
And that means our women are now just win away from qualifying for the Uber Cup Finals on merit.
“I hope our girls will seize the opportunity to move into the top four.”
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