Just a week after the All-Indonesia Badminton Association (PBSI) decided to beef up its national squad, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) has decided to go the leaner way.
The BAM today confirmed that they have dropped seven players from the national squad to bring down the number of players in the squad to 31.
The seven players dropped are men’s singles Soong Joo Ven, Tan Jia Wei and Muhammad Ziyad Md Tah, the men’s doubles pair of Teo Ee Yi-Ong Yew Sin and women’s doubles players Lim Peiy Yee and Lim Chiew Sien.
The BAM now has six men’s singles players, five women’s singles players, 11 men’s doubles players, nine women’s doubles players and eight mixed doubles players.
Goh Jin Wei, who has not played any tournament since June last year, is the youngest player retained while mixed doubles specialist Goh Soon Huat at 30 is the oldest.
The majority of players are between 20 and 24, in line with BAM’s Project 24.
Indonesia had picked a total of 56 player for their national training squad, that included the surprise inclusion of veterans Mohamad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan.
Both countries seems to have taken somewhat similar approach in their intentions to build a strong squad for the future by opting for younger players, but that is as far the similarities are.
The BAM by choosing to drop both Soong Joo Ven and Tan Jia Wei leaves them with only four of Malaysia’s top ten ranked players in their stable. With players like Liew Daren, Iskandar Zulkarnaian and Soo Teck Zhi, all opting to carve their own career outside, Joo Ven was effectively BAM’s number two men’s singles player.
The current Malaysian number two is Cheam June Wei, who was also under fire until his recent surprise win at the Malaysian International series, is ranked only 64, four rungs below Joo Ven and way below the top three Indonesian players.
Indonesia, on their part have included seven of their top ten ranked players in the national squad. They have even brought in three players who are only 19, to give them the right exposure. And they have also beefed up their back-up squad with much younger players.
Malaysian back-up squad players while training together with the national side are unlikely to get the same exposure the senior team would be getting.
BAM’s decision to drop the doubles pair of Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi is at best not well thought out at all, especially with the Olympic qualification ending in April.
The duo are currently ranked 19th in the world and stand a statistical chance of qualifying for the Olympics given the right tournament to play to improve their rankings. The pair were ranked 29th in January last year and had moved up ten rungs in the past 12 months.
Kicking them out of the squad at this juncture is unfair to the duo, whose chance of qualifying for the Olympics is now in a limbo. This is not to say that the duo are certain to qualify, but at least they would have had a chance to prove themselves.
Like Joo Ven, the pair were also the second highest ranked pair in the BAM stable.
Indonesia have once again taken a different route by promoting some of their back-up players as well as giving a second life to veterans Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan after being dropped from the national squad earlier.
The 2020 Olympics is likely to be the swansong for the pair, who are both past 30-years-old. The PBSI had brought them back with two clear objectives. The first is to help them do well at the Olympics by designing special training programme to cater for them specifically. And the second to help the younger players in the squad gain experience playing against them in training. It is a win-win situation that the BAM failed to see when they dropped Yew Sin-Ee Yi.
While Indonesia have opted to promote several teenagers to the senior squad, including 17-year-old Putri Kusuma Wardhani, Malaysia has chosen not to bring in any new recruits to the senior squad. This, despite, that both the top ranked Malaysian women’s singles players, have not been at the best of health or form lately.
That Indonesia is banking on speed tracking their young players – Putri, ranked 276 in the world, Nandini Putri Arumni (483) and Yasnita Enggira Setyawan (503) – shows they are more concerned on the future than short term gains.
One look at the Indonesian women’s doubles national squad and you can guess that this is a team being groomed for the future.
Greysia Polii is the oldest player in the squad at 32 with the majority of the players still in their teens.
Greysia is currently ranked eighth in the world with partner Apriyani Rahayu but it looks almost certain that the latter would be partnered off with Tania Oktaviani Kusumah in the near future. Tania now partners 26-year-old Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani.
Like the men’s doubles the older players seem to be included to ensure a smoother transition for Indonesia.
Malaysia’s decision to drop the 26-year-old Lim Chiew Sen also looks out of place especially now that her partner Anna Cheong is without a partner in the squad.
Surely they could have retained the younger Lim Pei Yee to partner Anna instead of making the latter the odd one out in the women’s doubles squad.
Older players tend to do have a longer life cycle in the mixed doubles, the current Malaysian mixed doubles squad is almost entirely made up of players above 25 years-old.
Of the eight players in the squad, only two – Hoo Pang Ron and Chen Tan Jie – are 22-years-old.
Indonesia, while retaining their older players have also brought in a number of players below the age of 21 with the vision of the future strongly being a factor.
The BAM coaching as well as the selection committees may have their very own reasons in deciding the players to be retained in the national squad. But their decision to drop players and not to promoting juniors in their place seems to be designed only for short term goals.
The PBSI seems to have taken different route, taking into account of both short and long term goals.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons that our traditional rivals in the game have a better track record and have shown resilience to bounce back from any slump very quickly.