No go for Jun Hao as Justin, Eogene get the nod for BATC

KUALA LUMPUR: The BA of Malaysia (BAM) has opted for youth in the Badminton Asia Team Championships (BATC) from Feb 13-18.

Leong Jun Hao has been omitted to pave the way for the inclusion of youngsters Justin Hoh and Eogene Ewe.

The exclusion of the 24-year-old certainly came as a surprise, considering he is currently the third-highest-ranked men's singles shuttler in the country at world No. 37, behind Lee Zii Jia (No. 10) and Ng Tze Yong (No. 15).

Justin 19 and Eogene, 18, are ranked world No. 74 and No. 321, respectively.

As expected, Zii Jia and Tze Yong will spearhead Malaysia's charge alongside top doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik at the Setia Alam Convention Centre in Shah Alam.

Completing the 10-man squad are Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin and Choong Hon Jian-Haikal Nazri.

While the omission of Jun Hao has raised a few eyebrows, coach Tey Seu Bock believes in the importance of allowing second-stringers to shine in a major tournament of BATC stature.

"It's time for the men's singles department to provide these junior shuttlers opportunities. If we don't do it now, then when?" stressed Seu Bock.

"Let's present them with this challenge and observe how they can justify their spots.

"Justin will likely be fielded in the third singles. It's a massive task for him, but he has to embrace it and learn how to handle pressure."

If anything, Jun Hao would likely feel hard done by the exclusion, considering his impressive track record in the last two editions of BATC, delivering four points out of a possible four.

Seu Bock acknowledged that the coaches are aware of Jun Hao's capabilities, but there's a greater need for the team to test the unseasoned youngsters. This is crucial to produce more options for the Thomas Cup in May.

"Jun Hao has shown what he could offer in the team event. That's why we need to give the others a chance to prove themselves too so that we can choose the best for the Thomas Cup," said Seu Bock.

"If Justin performs well, he will definitely be on the radar for Thomas Cup selection.

"This is a one-off selection for BATC. The doors remain wide open for Jun Hao to fight for his place in the Thomas Cup."

In the doubles category, the notable absentees are world No. 12 Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi — the second highest-ranked men's pair.

Rexy revealed that Yew Sin-Ee Yi could not answer the call-up due to their hectic schedule. He disclosed that Ee Yi is still troubled by a knee injury.

"Through (coach) Rosman (Razak), it has been conveyed to us that they are not ready for the BATC. They have also signed up for the Thailand Masters (next week), making it four consecutive weeks in action," explained Rexy.

"Ee Yi's knee problem has not fully healed."

Haikal-Hon Jian were the preferred choice over inconsistent world No. 19 Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun following their recent outstanding results, which included winning a Super 300 title.

"We brought in Haikal-Hon Jian to give them the much-needed exposure of a top-level meet," said coach Tan Bin Shen.

"Still, we want them, together with Sze Fei-Izzuddin, to be ever ready to deliver the point whenever called upon. I hope they take this BATC seriously."

Malaysia are the defending champion in the men's team competition.

However, BAM secretary-general Datuk Kenny Goh has tempered expectations, emphasising that the priority is to secure qualification for the Thomas Cup with a top-four finish at BATC.

With Olympic ranking points at stake, this year's edition will be challenging, as all participating nations will likely field their strongest squads.

THE squads

Men's team

Singles: Lee Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong, Justin Hoh and Eogene Ewe.

Doubles: Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Goh Sze Fei, Nur Izzuddin Rumsani, Choong Hon Jian and Haikal Nazri.

Women's team

Singles: Goh Jin Wei, K. Letshanaa, Wong Ling Ching and Siti Nurshuhaini Azman.

Doubles: Pearly Tan, M. Thinaah, Teoh Mei Xing, Go Pei Kee, Low Yeen Yuan and Tan Zhing Yi.

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