KUALA LUMPUR: National number one Wong Choong Hann will spearhead a 12-member team for the All-England badminton championships, which will be held in Birmingham from Feb 12-16.
Singles chief coach Misbun Sidek named six players yesterday while his doubles counterpart, Yap Kim Hock, chose his top three pairs.
Besides China Open champion Choong Hann, the other singles players in the team are Lee Tsuen Seng, James Chua, Yong Hock Kin and the Hashim brothers, Roslin and Hafiz. The doubles pairs are Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng, Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chang Kim Wai-Hong Chieng Hun.
The target for the singles players is to reach at least the quarter-finals while the doubles pairs are expected to go one better.
The same group of players will also feature in the Swiss Open from Feb 18-23.
In the All-England last year, none of the Malaysia singles players got past the third round and only one pair reached the quarter-finals – Ng Kean Kok-Jeremy Gan.
Misbun said that the six players he chose were in good form.
“I expect all of them to reach at least the quarter-finals and Choong Hann is our best bet to win the title,” he said.
“Hafiz hold a reputation (of being the Manchester Commonwealth Games singles gold and having given strong performances in the Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou) but he is not a feared player yet. But I hope he will spring some surprises.
“When I began coaching the team (on Jan 2), James had a heel injury and I was doubtful that he would make it. But he proved me wrong and is doing well in training. He is able to take everything that is thrown at him. Roslin and Hock Kin can do well with more consistency.”
Of the six singles players, only Roslin has reached the semi-finals – in 2001, losing to China's Chen Hong. Hock Kin was a quarter-finalist in 1998 while Choong Hann's effort thus far was a third round appearance in 2000.
Tsuen Seng made it to the econd round in 2001 while Hafiz and James were the second and first round casualties last year.
The last Malaysian to win the All-England singles crown was Tan Aik Huang in 1966.
Meanwhile, Kim Hock said that their best bet to win honours was on Chong Ming-Choon Eng.
“We hope that they can produce better results that we did last year,” said Kim Hock.
“Tan Fook and Wan Wah are not at their best form yet. But this yet another tournament for them to prove their worth.
“We are not setting high expectations on Kim Wai-Chieng Hun but we are gearing them to become the second pair for team tournaments like the Thomas Cup Finals. We have to give them as many opportunities as possible to play against the top pairs.”
The Sidek brothers Razif-Jalani were the last Malaysians to lift the doubles crown in 1982. Tan Fook-Wan Wah were sem,i-finalists in 2001 while Chong Ming-Choon Eng were eliminated in the second round.
The top Malaysian players skipped the All-England last year to concentrate on their preparations for the Thomas Cup Finals.