Former Thomas Cup greats have faith in our shuttlers

By JAMES WONG - Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: They could not reach an accord in their predictions on the winners of the Thomas Cup. But one thing the former greats concur on is that Malaysia have a strong chance to regain the title they last won in 1992.

Four of them have forecast different teams from among the four main contenders – defending champions Indonesia, top seeds China, second seed Malaysia and South Korea. And they believe that it will be one of the closest contested tournaments in recent years.

Tan Yee Khan, a member of the 1967 victorious Malaysian side, is hedging his bet on Indonesia while Datuk Eddy Choong, who won a winners’ medal in 1955, feels that unseeded South Korea have the edge.

The captain of the 1992 Cup-winning team, Razif Sidek, favours China but his team manager then, Datuk Punch Gunalan, is leaving his prediction open.

But there is one constant in their assertions – Malaysia have a chance to emerge as champions because of the team’s overall strength and the 7x5 scoring format.

Gunalan feels that Malaysia could win if they seize the opportunity well.

“The new scoring format has opened up the race in this year’s Finals. Malaysia have a good chance,” said the vice-president of the International Badminton Federation (IBF).

The 61-year-old Yee Khan, while admitting that Indonesia have the edge based on their two strong doubles pairs and point-getter in Taufik Hidayat, agrees that Malaysia are almost on par with their arch-rivals in terms of strength.

“It is a good time for Malaysia to go for the title,” he said.

For Eddy, the doubles would be the key to a team’s ambition but Malaysia’s odds against the other contenders could be affected by the injury to doubles shuttler Lee Wan Wah.

His money is on his personal favourites, South Korea, whose consistent doubles pairs – Lee Dong-soo-Yoo Yong-sung and Kim Dong-moon-Ha Tae-kwan – will be complemented by strong singles player Lee Hyun-il.

The 72-year-old Eddy noted that Indonesia’s strength in the doubles would be affected by the departure of their star, Tony Gunawan. China have a young second pair in Cheng Rui-Wang Wei whose inexperience could be a setback while the two Danish pairs were not strong.

Razif said that China, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia had strong credentials for the title but he would choose China based on their strength in the singles.

“I will not be surprised if they win the title on the strength of their (three) singles.

“Their doubles too are not bad … they are consistent,” said Razif, adding that Indonesia and South Korea would be hoping to win their ties through bagging one singles and two doubles.