Malaysia’s 3-2 defeat at the Thomas Cup quarter-finals on Thursday will leave a bitter aftertaste not only for the shuttlers, but for millions of fans back home who were expecting a victory after a promising start by the team.
The national team went into their match as favourites against the Indians, having beaten Japan 3-2 to top their group and seemingly land a favourable draw.
Malaysia crashed out at the same stage to Indonesia last year, which was still considered acceptable as the Indonesians were packed with firepower in every department and eventually went on to become champions.
But the defeat against India not only highlighted the fact the team are flagging in performance, but more concerning was a glaring gulf in class in the men’s singles department.
While Lee Zii Jia stepped up a few levels in the last month, having won the Badminton Asian Championships and exited the Thomas Cup without losing, the same can’t be said for the rest.
Ng Tze Yong’s tame defeat to K.Srikanth exposed the deficiency of a shuttler with plenty of ground to make up if he intends to break into the top 20.
Srikanth was head and shoulders above Ng and was left to pick his moments for points without being flustered.
Credit to Ng, he could not be faulted for effort as he even changed his serve midway through the second game to attempt to unhinge the Indian but to no avail.
But the 21-year-old got his work cut out for him on the back of this defeat.
With Lee gone from the national team setup, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) must get to work to get their new star shuttler up to mark.
It is wrong to say that Ng is still young and will need time to match the big boys, especially when India’s Lakshya Sen is only 20 but already broke into the top 10 and got a World Championships bronze and an All-England runner-up to his name.
Leong Jun Hao is another one who will need plenty of guidance.
While he cannot faulted completely for losing the final match with the scores tied at 2-2, the manner of his defeat says a lot about his needs to improve in several aspects.
As for the men’s doubles, they are on the right track but there are areas that need to be addressed urgently, especially the performance of Soh Wooi Yik.
The shuttler was substituted by Teo Ee Yi who partnered Aaron Chia to contribute points against Japan and India.
But Teo will return with Ong Yew Sin, and it will be up to the coaching staff and Soh to raise his overall performance level.
The BAM will no doubt do the necessary post-mortems and unveil some findings to the public in due course, but Malaysians do not want to hear just excuses.
Comments flooding in on social media after the India defeat showed how frustrated the fans were, after seeing the same manner of performances unfold in recent years.
They want to see results, or if that’s too much to ask, at least a significant rise in the quality of performance.