KUALA LUMPUR: Former national player Ong Beng Teong sees Malaysia having a team with the ability to regain the Thomas Cup in the Finals in Japan.
Beng Teong said yesterday that Malaysia had a strong singles line-up, complemented by doubles pairs capable of winning points for the team.
He added that doubles coach Rexy Mainaky had done well to whip up the top two ranked pairs in the team Chan Chong Ming-Koo Kien Keat and veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah.
In recent tournaments, Chong Ming-Kien Keat won the gold medal in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and Tan Fook-Wan Wah emerged as the champions in the Asian Badminton Championships in Johor Baru.
The other doubles players in the team are seasoned campaigner Chew Choon Eng and rookie Tan Boon Heong. The singles line-up comprises Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann, Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Kuan Beng Hong.
The doubles players have improved training under Rexy. They will certainly complement the strength in the singles, said Beng Teong.
Beng Teong has featured in four Thomas Cup Finals between 1982-1988 and he recognises the importance of having two strong pairs for the Finals.
At the 1988 Finals in Kuala Lumpur, Beng Teong partnered Cheah Soon Kit and they delivered the decisive point in the second doubles match of the semi-finals against Indonesia to put Malaysia through to the final for the first time in 12 years.
Rexy has found the solution to elevate the form of his charges, said Beng Teong, who is now the operations manager of the Kuala Lumpur Racket Club.
He has taken their game to another level. The doubles players have shown maturity in their game plan. They have added tactical variations to their speed and power. They are playing a thinking game.
The pairs are certainly capable of winning points to help Malaysia win ties against the top contenders.
Malaysia have been drawn in Group D with England and the United States for the preliminary round ties, which will be played in Sendai from April 28-May 1.
The knockout stages will be played in Tokyo from May 3-7 and in the quarter-finals, Malaysia are expected to meet the runners-up of Group B, which has South Korea and Indonesia.
The winners are expected to play against Denmark in the semi-finals.
Beng Teong predicts that Indonesia will top their group to go into the half of the knockout draw that has defending champions China.
Malaysia have a realistic chance to reach the final, he said.
The last time Japan hosted the Finals in 1990, Malaysia finished as the runners-up to China, losing 1-4 in the final.
Malaysia regained the prestigious trophy in the next edition in Kuala Lumpur in 1992.