Two quarter-final appearances and one title in three back-to-back tournaments augurs well for the men’s doubles pair of Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi. Not so for the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) that decided less than a month ago that the pair were not worthy of a place in the national squad.
And in an about turn, last week the BAM even decided that the pair should now be included in the Malaysian team for the Asian Team Championships. So what changed?
Yew Sin-Ee Yi, ranked 20 in the world, had beaten six higher ranked pairs in the three tournaments this month – Malaysia Masters, Indonesia Masters and the Thailand Masters. Their only defeat to a lower ranked pair this year was at the Malaysian Masters, where they were beaten by the eventual champions Kim Gi-Jung-Lee Yong Dae in the quarter-finals. At the Indonesia Masters, they were beaten by teammates Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik in the last eight as well.
While it may be early days for the pair but the results do show the flaw in BAM’s decision making process when it comes to player selection.
It is learnt that not all were happy with the drastic decision to axe Yew Sin-Ee Yi from the national training squad, but had to abide by the stance taken by the ultimate decision makers in the BAM.
Any notion that the duo have magically transformed into better players after being dropped is wishful thinking. This is not a case of the frog turning into a prince with a kiss.
At the start of 2019, the pair also had a good run making the final of the Malaysian Masters, where they lost to eventual champions Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, the current world number one. Enroute they also accounted for Aaron-Wooi Yik in the semi-finals.
They were also quarter-finalist at the 2019 Thailand Masters, losing to teammates Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong.
In the 22 events they participated in last season, they also made it to the quarter-finals at the German Open, New Zealand Open, China Open, and Hong Kong Open apart from making the semi-finals of the Manila SEA Games.
With the exception of the 2019 Thailand Open, where they lost to Korean’s Ko Sung Hyun-Shin Baek Cheol, the pair did not lose to lower ranked opponents in any of other events.
It was a vast improvement over their 2018 results, when they lost in the early stages, in all their tournaments with the exception of the Thailand Masters. Two if their quarter-final effort at the Asian Games was also included.
Yew Sin-Ee Yi did have some problems with some of the pairings in 2019, losing four times each to Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe and teammates Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong. Nevertheless, to have dropped them for under performing does not seem to hold water considering that they had shown progress from 2018 to 2019.
This year, they have managed to get past opponents who had stopped them last year. This includes world number nine Choi Solgyu-Seo Seung Jae, whom they beat in the first round of the Thailand Masters. They also avenged the defeat to China’s 11th ranked Han Cheng Kai-Zhou Hao Dong last year with wins at both the Indonesian Masters and Malaysian Masters this month.
At the Thailand Open final, the Malaysian pair had beaten China’s Huang Kaixiang-Liu Cheng 18-21, 21-17, 21-17. Ironically the Chinese pair had accounted for both the higher ranked Malaysian pairs – Aaron-Wooi Yik in the first round and V Shem-Wee Kiong in the semi-finals.
The progress shown shows that it was not an overnight success for Yew Sin-Ee Yi but that they were still a work in progress that the BAM coaching set-up just failed to see the potential.
BAM coaching director Wong Choon Hann said that Yew Sin-Ee Yi were included in the squad because they had shown good form and also that he saw a different level of passion in their game.
But where was the foresight in the issue when the BAM could have waited just a little longer before hastily dumping the duo citing non-performance. Bringing them back just three weeks after kicking them out does gives much confidence or justification.
It also begs the question as to why the team management and coaches were previously not able to kindle the new found passion with the duo?
With their recent results, Yew Sin-Ee Yi have shown that they have the mental strength and determination to succeed. They may not be world champion material but as grudgingly admitted by the BAM in selecting them for the Asian team championships, they were still vital for Malaysian success in the immediate future.
However the selection of the pair also meant that the BAM had chosen not to pick the more experienced V Shem-Wee Kiong for the Asian Team Championships despite ranked higher in the world at number 12.
V Shem-Wee Kiong were semi-finalists at the Thailand Masters this year but do have a better track record in 2019. They had won the Chinese Taipei Masters as well as the Thailand Masters last year as well as making the finals of the Korean Open. They were also semi-finalists at the New Zealand Open and the Malaysian Masters; and quarter-finalists at the Thailand Open, Singapore Open and the All England in 2019.
They also have a much better track record against possible opponents in the second men’s doubles at the team events compared to Yew Sin-Ee Yi of Goh Sze Fei-Mohd Izzuddin Rumsani, who are ranked much lower at 25.
The BAM may have valid reason but for a layman it just seems to be a yo-yo decision making process.
Hasty, ill-timed, bizarre, shocking are just some of the reaction that succinctly describe BAM’s decisions in dropping players and recalling them within three weeks to beef up the squad, and in deciding not pick stronger players at hand.
Wee Kiong is reported to have said that BAM should have given V Shem and himself a place in the squad to enable them to earn valuable points in the race to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
And the player has a valid reason to be unhappy.
The Asian Team Championships also serves as the qualifier for the Thomas Cup finals, with the top four teams earning their berths. Malaysia will be up against Japan, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and India at the championships in Manila.
But failure to finish in the top four would not be the end for the Malaysian squad. Even if Malaysia fail to qualify on merit, they are still expected to squeeze into the 16-team Finals by virtue of their team world ranking.
Wouldn’t it have been more logical for Malaysia to assist V Shem-Wee Kiong in their battle to qualify for the Olympics?
It would be a surprise if Sze Fei-Mohd Izzuddin play a single match against the top teams at the Asian Team Championships. V Shem-Wee Kiong would most definitely be the better option to bring along based on their experience and track record.
Or is the BAM sending out a subtle message to the independent players?