KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Misbun Sidek may take a gamble by fielding an inexperienced youngster in the team for the Thomas Cup qualifiers.
The qualifiers will take place during the Asia Team Badminton Championships in Alor Setar, Kedah, from Feb 6-11.
Only the top four Asian teams from the Asian meet will be automatic entries for the Finals in Bangkok, Thailand, from May 20-27 and Misbun is doing all he can to ensure that the men’s singles players deliver.
Based on current form, only world No. 2 Lee Chong Wei is confirmed of a place.
Three others – Lee Zii Jia, Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and Soong Joo Ven – should complete the cast based on their recent performances.
But Misbun may just pull a surprise on the team by naming Asian junior champion and World Junior Championships runner-up Leong Jun Hao or two-time national champion Lim Chi Wing as the fourth singles.
Misbun is reminded by a picture of a young Viktor Axelsen of Denmark watching attentively the battle between Chong Wei and Lin Dan in one of their clashes during the Thomas Cup Finals many years ago.
“I still remember Viktor then. He was in the team as a new junior. He didn’t play a big role but he sat at the side and watched the match in awe,” said Misbun.
“It was a priceless experience for Viktor as a junior. Now, look at him – he’s a world No. 1 player and a world champion.
“Team events can inspire a youngster and I hope the experience of playing in a team event will spark a dream to be a champion.”
Misbun said he would submit his proposal of his top four singles players during the Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM) coaching and training committee meeting (CNT) at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (BAM) today.
“I’ve made up my mind but I’ve to justify my selection at the CNT before making it official. Trust me, it’ll be the best team.”
Misbun is happy with the commitment shown by the singles players.
“You can see it in their faces. The training is tough but the boys are eager.
“There’s a good team spirit and unity among the younger players, that’s important,” said Misbun.
“I’m aware of the progress of the singles players from the other countries. Our players will step up too, I’m expecting them to produce better results.
“I’m a realist – I don’t expect immediate results but it’ll come eventually, we have the talents,” added Misbun, who is hoping that his boys will impress at the three back-to-back tournaments this month.
They will be taking part in the Thailand Masters in Bangkok from Jan 9-14, Malaysian Masters in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 16-21 and the Indonesian Masters in Jakarta from Jan 23-28.