A ROCKY road lies ahead for the inconsistent national bowlers when they take on professionals in the World Singles Championships which start today in Limassol, Cyprus.
The four-member squad are hoping to bounce back from a below-par performance at the recent Asian Championship but may find it tough to match their rivals at this inaugural event.
The men's team comprise Malaysian Open champion Zulmazran Zulkifli and Syafiq Ridhwan Abd Malek while Esther Cheah and Jacqueline Jenelee Sijore, who have won three world titles between them, make up the women's squad.
They, however, are confident of making an impact after trying out the lanes at the tournament's venue - Galactica Bowling Centre - since arriving in Cyprus last weekend.
Despite being organised for the first time, the event has attracted the best from 46 countries.
The United States -- comprising Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones, Kelly Kulick and Shannon O'Keefe -- are the favourites to sweep the men's and women's titles while England, Finland, Colombia, Singapore and the Netherlands could surprise.
Team manager Cheah Ban Cheng said the Malaysian bowlers cannot afford bad games in the tournament.
"Our bowlers were inconsistent at the Asian meet but they cannot afford it in this event," said Ban Cheng before leaving for Cyprus.
"We, however, always perform well in Europe. I believe we are capable of doing it again."
The Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) made a surprise decision by including Zulmazran and Syafiq in the team over their more illustrious teammates but Ban Cheng said the duo have quality.
Guangzhou Asian Games double gold medallists Alex Liew and Adrian Ang, who both have won in Europe, were left out.
"Zulmazran tends to perform better in individual events while Syafiq has been making steady progress of late.
"We selected Esther due to her recent success in tournaments in Hong Kong and Korea while Jacqueline needs high-level events to regain her confidence," Ban Cheng added.
Since her gold medal success at last year's Women's World Championships, Jacqueline has been struggling.
The tournament gets underway today with the men's and women's singles first block of six games. By Ajitpal Singh