Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tough time ahead as Asians face busy year

India top seeds but Ong Beng Hee aims for Malaysian glory
EXCLUSIVE By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Malaysian Correspondent

Azlan Iskander and Ong Beng Hee
Azlan Iskander and Ong Beng Hee

Dipika Pallikal, the Indian number one, said in March during the World Open, that 2014 is a bad year to be Asian (especially if you come from a Commonwealth country), referring to the busy schedule where the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Teams are all taking place in the same year. For a female player, there’s also the possibility of another World Open towards the end of the year.

The 17th Buler Asian Squash Team Championships starts today in Hong Kong.. This time round, the competition looks highly interesting, especially for the men. Amidst a controversial seeding, where India has been given the top billing ahead of Pakistan and Malaysia, the reality is, any these three are capable of winning.

It gets even tougher, as Hong Kong and Kuwait are not to be discounted. Playing at home, Hong Kong is going to be a very tough opponent for any team. Much of the host’s burden will lie on Max Lee and Leo Au. The duo will be riding high from the Hong Kong Football Club PSA event in May, where Max won the title and Leo took out Alistair Walker who is ranked 14 rungs higher.

Kuwait is a team not known to many, but they have the very talented Abdullah Al-Mezayen, who has proved on many occasions that ranking is just a number. The crafty left hander, on a good day, will play well above his current world ranking of 44. In the past, Kuwait has surprised before, particularly in 2008 when they took out Pakistan in the semi finals.

Pakistan, the defending champions, might not have the PSA rankings, but they have players who are formidable enough to turn the tables. They might not have been on the PSA, but in team events, these boys might just spring a surprise.

Malaysia, led by veteran Ong Beng Hee, will be out for glory. The Malaysians will have Azlan Iskandar, former world number 10 in the team. With this this depth in the team, this is surely the team to beat in my opinion.

Huang Ying How, Vice President of Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia added, “This is an important test as part of our preparation for the Asian Games. We want the team to enjoy the games, build a strong team spirit and represent Malaysia with pride. We are aiming for a Top three finish.”

ghosalToCIndia, the top seeds will be banking on Saurav Ghosal (right) to deliver the first point. Beyond that, Harinderpal Singh Sandhu would have to cough up another point for their matches. Like I said anyone in the top three (Pakistan, India, Malaysia) can win the title. But there’s also Hong Kong and Kuwait for spoilers too.

In the women’s event, Malaysia has been given top billing. India and Hong Kong follow suit, but again these two countries could well spring a surprise or two. They were the finalists in the last edition, with India edging out Hong Kong 2-0.

Hong Kong and India have traded the title for the last two times, with Malaysia coming in third on both occasions. This time round, they are the team to beat, boasting a line up of world number one Nicol David and world number seven Low Wee Wern. The top two girls should be able to give the Malaysian points they need.

Across the border to Singapore, we see the comeback of Joannah Yue in the Singapore national team. The 37-year-old will surely add spice to the team, as they will be vying for a place in the top eight. Once a power house in Asian squash, Singapore is looking to revive its excellence once again. This edition will also see Bryan Koh, Mao Shi Yuan and Sherilyn Yang making their debuts in the senior ranks at the Asian Teams.

China will be sending in their players with no reserves. Pakistan and Iran a women’s team each, which should be rather interesting given the religious and cultural technicalities in those countries with regards to women and sports.

The Singapore team
The Singapore team



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