Rashid never thought M'sia would suffer such a long Thomas Cup title drought

KUALA LUMPUR: It never occurred to national badminton legend Datuk Rashid Sidek that Malaysia would experience such a long Thomas Cup drought.

Rashid, part of the national squad led by the Sidek brothers that last captured the Thomas Cup back in 1992 in Kuala Lumpur, said he is disappointed because badminton is one of the most popular sports in the country and, yet, Malaysia still can't regain the coveted Cup.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games men's singles bronze medallist was also surprised by the long title drought despite there being no shortage of talented shuttlers and Malaysia having all the necessary facilities and better infrastructure compared to during his time.

"I never thought Malaysia would find it so difficult to bring home the Thomas Cup. I thought maybe within 10 or 20 years we would win it back, but it's been 32 years now," he said when met by Bernama here today.

Sharing his memory of lifting the Thomas Cup, Rashid said its impact was very significant for Malaysia.

"Its impact was very good, the whole of Malaysia went viral and everyone wanted to play badminton. Even on the sidewalks, one can see people playing badminton. So, I hope Malaysia can regain the Thomas Cup because its impact is really fantastic," said the 55-year-old Rashid.

Apart from Rashid, the doubles combination of Sidek brothers Razif-Jalani also played a pivotal role in defeating Indonesia 3-2 in the 1992 final and helping Malaysia bag the Thomas Cup for the fifth time.

After the 1992 edition, Malaysia emerged as runners-up four times - in 1994 (Jakarta, Indonesia); 1998 (Hong Kong), 2002 (Guangzhou, China) and 2014 New Delhi (India).

Commenting on Malaysia's chances of emerging as champions in the 2024 Thomas Cup Finals, which will be held in Chengdu, China from April 27-May 5, Rashid admitted that it won't be a walk in the park.

"Frankly, it won't be easy for Malaysia to win it this time. It's not that they can, but it will be extremely difficult. To win it this time, they must have a balanced squad, at least two singles players and two doubles pairs that are equally good, just like in 1992.

"So, if we only have one good singles shuttler and two good pairs, we will be relying on just these three players. It's not that we can't depend on the other two but it will be obvious that they have not reached the required standard," he explained.

Meanwhile, he picked Denmark and Indonesia as the favourites to win the Thomas Cup this year but he does not rule out the possibility of another team pulling off a major surprise like what India did when they won their maiden title in the 2022 edition in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Based on strength, Denmark stand a chance, So do Indonesia simply because Jonatan Christie (men's singles) is in top form at the moment. These two teams can emerge as champions," he said.

In the 2024 Thomas Cup campaign, Malaysia, who will have the likes of professional singles ace Lee Zii Jia and former world men's doubles champions Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik in the squad, have been drawn in Group D with Denmark, Hong Kong and Algeria. – BERNAMA

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