National singles coach Datuk Misbun Sidek is on a mission to get their boys fit before the Thomas Cup Finals in Bangkok, Thailand from 20-27 May.

Despite Malaysia’s major boost with the presence of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Misbun admitted his players were evidently out of shape at the E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships.

Malaysia had a fine run beating Myanmar (5-0) and Chinese Taipei (5-0) to win Group Y. They then went on to thrash Hong Kong 3-0 before crashing out tamely to China (1-3) at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium last night.

“Overall, I’m satisfied with the players I have fielded in this tournament where I have tried to identify the suitable candidates to shoulder Malaysia’s bid in the qualifying stages.

“As what I can see there are still a few weaknesses that needs to be rectified. Most importantly, we need to build on the players physical strength and mental.

“In comparison with the other nations, it was evident that they were fit. I believe we’re there in terms of technicality. Therefore, we need to work on a systematic programme to buff them up within these three months.

“I believe this development will make a difference to the players’ performance. We still have room for improvement and the players work hard to achieve it,” said Misbun.

Likewise, men’s doubles coach Soon Kit echoed a similar tune to his players’ downfall throughout the tournament.

National No.1 pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong won the only point for Malaysia after beating 21-18, 21-12. Meanwhile Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi were upset by Chinese pair Han Chengkai-Zhou Haodong, ranked 51st.

Soon Kit also admitted that had been rather unpredictable and inconsistent.

“They have to improve in their physical strength and speed. They are fine with their tactical play but the crucial part would be their consistency.

“I think V Shem-Wee Kiong did well but it was disappointing to see Ee Yi-Yew Sin lose. However, they are playing for the first time as a second pair in a team event. So we’ll try to find their right combinations with time we have and we’ll see what they lack,” said Soon Kit.

The doubles squad will next prepare for the German Grand Prix Gold (6-11 March) and the All England Super Series Premier (14-18 March).

Malaysia rested Lee Chong Wei in the semi-finals against China in the E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium in Alor Setar on Saturday. The home team lost to China, however, it was not the defeat fans were questioning but rather why Chong Wei did not play. 

Many fans were calling his name whenever they caught sight of their idol. At 35-years, he remains one of badminton’s hottest properties and so some can understand the disappointment of the fans when he sat on the sidelines with the rest of his teammates.

Coach Misbun Sidek explained his reasons, which made plenty of sense. He was not too concerned with the defeat as Malaysia had achieved the target of qualifying for the Thomas Cup Finals in Bangkok in May.

“I rested Chong Wei for some reasons. The Asian meet is highly competitive and the right place to test our other players. I took this opportunity to try them out and give them the exposure.

“Between now and May anything can happen to any of the players. I need to have contingency plans should the need arise while we work on our shortcomings.

“The Thomas Cup Finals will be much, much tougher and we need to arrest our weaknesses. It is good we made the Finals on merit. Reaching the last four is an achievement for the team.

“Many had questioned the selection of the team to Alor Setar but we have proven them wrong. Now we have to start working on our team for the biggie in Bangkok,” said Misbun, reminding that there is lot of hardwork that needs to be done.

“Zii Jia is a star in the making and he showed fine form in the Asian Championships…but it is a long journey for him. His confidence level of playing a high level tournament has gone up and this is good for him.

“Zii Jia cannot rest on his laurels as it is just the beginning for him. He is aware that he has a lot to learn and lot to improve.” 

Chong Wei too is pleased with Zii Jia’s overall performance and believes that the 19-year-old from Alor Setar is headed for brighter things in his badminton career.

“Zii Jia did very well in our mission to qualify for the Thomas Cup Finals on merit. Give him time. I see him making the top. For now he needs to work on several shortcomings,” said Chong Wei.

With Chong Wei rested, Zii Jia played the first singles against China with Soong Joo Ven  and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin filling in the second and third singles slots.

Zii Jia and Soo Ven lost their matches against Shi Yuqi and Qiao Bin with Han Chengkai-Zhou Haodong delivering the winning point when they defeated Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi. Malaysia’s number one doubles pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong defeated He Jiting-Tan Qiang for Malaysia’s only point. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH 

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