Misbun may spring surprises in his Thomas Cup line-up


BY RAJES PAUL

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian squad for the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals will be announced today. And national singles chief coach Misbun Sidek could have some surprises up his sleeve. 

The Finals will be staged in Jakarta, Indonesia from May 7-16 and Malaysia will name five singles and five doubles players for both the Thomas and Uber Cup teams. 

For the men's singles, Wong Choong Hann, Lee Chong Wei and Mohd Roslin Hashim are as good as in. The indications are that Roslin's younger brother Hafiz is set to make the team. 

But Misbun, known for making drastic decisions, may just add some intrigue when the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) coaching and training committee under president Datuk Nadzmi Mohd Salleh finalise the squad today. 

Besides Hafiz, those waiting in the wings to be considered for a place are Lee Tsuen Seng, Kuan Beng Hong and Yeoh Kay Bin. 

Pressed for some indications on the team line-up during a training session at the Michael Academy in Taman Megah yesterday, Misbun remained mum. 

“I have made up mind on the five singles for the Thomas Cup Finals. I am more concerned with having three reliable players to win the points. Some may be selected but they may not see action. Let's just wait and see who last two players are to make the team,” said Misbun. 

If selection were to be based on the players' experience, Misbun should name Hafiz and Tsuen Seng, who were outstanding in the Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou, China two years ago.  

Or the other hand, Misbun may go for a mixture. He could opt for one of the two experienced players, quite likely Hafiz, and name one of the two debutants - Beng Hong and Kay Bin.  

With the BAM's emphasis on giving the youngsters exposure, Beng Hong, who had played at third singles in the Asian Zone qualifier, is the frontrunner. 

Misbun, however, has yet another – and more drastic – option. 

He could give Beng Hong and Kay Bin the biggest break in their careers, leaving out both Hafiz and Tsuen Seng. 

Hafiz and Tsuen Seng have both had a string of poor outings in international tournament over the last one year.  

Hafiz was an early casualty in 12 of 13 Open tournaments since winning the All-England crown in February last year.  

Except for the quarter-final finish in the last year's All-England, Indonesian Open and the ABC, Tsuen Seng has crashed out in the early rounds of all his other Open outings. 

Beng Hong and Kay Bin have yet to win a big title, but both have been in great shape during training. 

Misbun has been known to do the unexpected. 

Just two months ago, he dropped former All-England champion Hafiz from the squad for the Thomas Cup Asian Zone qualifying tournament. He also withdrew Chong Wei and Tsuen Seng on the eleventh hour from Grand Prix tournaments because he felt that they were not ready. 

Meanwhile, the selection in the doubles department will see a straight fight between experienced Chan Chong Ming and Gan Teik Chai for the fifth spot. The others assured of their places are Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chew Choon Eng-Koo Kien Keat. 

Malaysia last won the Thomas Cup crown in 1992. Malaysia were runners-up two years ago in Guangzhou when they lost 2-3 to Indonesia. 

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