Badminton: Follow thy neighbors | The Star

PETALING JAYA: It could be an all-Indonesian affair in the men’s doubles race for the crown in the World Championships next week based on the depth they have.

And former doubles ace Datuk Razif Sidek believes the only way for Malaysia to counter their arch-enemies is to have a bigger pool of quality pairs just like their neighbors.

Indonesian doubles player Fajar Alfian made it clear in a recent tweet that he and Rian Ardianto do not fear Malaysia or China but the looming threat from their teammates in the world meet starting on Monday in Tokyo.

“There is always talk about our opponents from China, Malaysia, but we are more worried about our own (Indonesian) pairs. We want to push each other and try to win titles. We are not afraid of others,” tweeted Fajar.

Fajar’s statement raised the importance of hunting for honors in a pack with quality teammates to push each other in tournaments.

Indonesia has an astonishing six pairs in the top 21 – world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya, Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan (No. 3), Fajar-Rian (No. 5), Paramudya Kusumawardana-Jeremiah Rambitan (No. 14), Shohibul Fikri-Bagas Maulana (No. 19) and Leo Rolly Carnando-Daniel Marthin (No. 21).

Marcus-Kevin, Hendra-Ahsan, Fajar-Rian and Shohibul-Bagas will be competing for honors in Tokyo.

Razif pointed out that Malaysia used to have the quality and quantity during current national doubles coaching director Rexy Mainaky’s first stint where there were about six strong pairs capable of winning on the international stage in 2006.

Led by Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, Malaysia had Mohd Fairuzizuan Tazari-Lin Woon Fui, Mohd Zakry Latif-Gan Teik Chai, Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng to rely on.

However, BAM’s current top two – world No. 6 Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani (No. 12) – do not have strong young pairs to push them while the other experienced independent pairs Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi (No. 10) and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (No. 15) are inconsistent.

“What Indonesia has at the moment is remarkable. They used to rely on one or two world class pairs but now they have six and there are a few more young combinations waiting to make a breakthrough,” Razif.

“It makes sense for Fajar not to be afraid of others but his fellow Indonesians. It’s a healthy competition. Having quality pairs will help them in Tokyo and also other tournaments.

“We should also try to help the younger pairs to bridge the gap with the seniors so that we will have more quality pairs to push each other in training and also in tournaments.

“BAM and Rexy are trying to get the younger and the elite pairs to train together.

“There are several combinations out there and with proper guidance, we can have more to the fore.”

Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun gave something to cheer last month when they won the Taiwan Open while Arif Junaidi-Mohd Haikal Nazri, Chia Weijie-Low Hang Yee and Chang Yee Jun-Yap Roy King are some of the back-up pairs with BAM.

Razif’s son Fazriq has also been promoted to the senior squad this year through the association’s fast track program.

The focus for now will be on the world meet where Malaysia also has four pairs – Aaron-Wooi Yik, Izzuddin-Sze Fei, Yew Sin-Ee Yi and V Shem-Wee Kiong who will be trying to win the elusive title.

Indonesia’s four combinations look to be the best bets with home pair and defending champions Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi as the only pair capable of denying them the honor.

The fact that Marcus-Kevin, Fajar-Rian and Shohibul-Bagas have not won the major title will motivate them further in Tokyo. Malaysia’s doubles shuttlers should also draw from the same motivation to end the agonizing wait for a world title.

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