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NST Online: Sports

<small>ON THE BALL: </small><br>It&#8217;s not too late but MHF must get cracking

Posted: 16 May 2011 12:50 AM PDT

By Vijesh Rai

TARGETED a top four finish, Malaysia suffered the ignominy of last place instead in the Azlan Shah Cup which ended in Ipoh yesterday.

More was expected from the squad, especially after their Asian Games silver last year and the fact that they were playing in their home tournament.

The urge to throw the book at the team and ask the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) to start afresh will surely be there in some quarters and the right amount of criticism might well result in that.

The Asian Games success is the main reason for this but we have to be honest here and admit that as pleasing as the silver medal in Guangzhou was, Malaysian hockey still has a long way to go before it can claim to be world class.

For starters, Malaysia need to qualify for next year's London Olympics and national coach Tai Beng Hai went to great lengths throughout the tournament to emphasise this.

The big picture, said Beng Hai, is Olympic qualification — a feat Malaysia haven't achieved since the 2000 Sydney Games.

There are no arguments here but what will be sad is if the lessons learnt in Ipoh are not put to good use.

Fitness was lacking and this must surely be a reason behind the lapses in concentration which caused Malaysia defeats in the dying seconds of matches.

Luckily, this happened in an invitational tournament and Beng Hai and his panel of coaches have time to work on this in the months leading up to the Olympic Qualifier.

Malaysia's penalty corner conversion also left much to be desired and this is a crucial area, especially as it proved highly effective for the big boys in crucial matches in Ipoh.

In fact, Malaysia were on the receiving end a couple of times and need to strengthen their armoury if they are to do the same to opponents.

The Azlan Shah Cup outing should also compel the MHF to have a re-look at the programme that has been laid to prepare the national squad for the Qualifier.

Is it thorough enough and will the players get the right amount of competitive exposure before going into battle with some of the world's best teams for just that one spot that will be available in the Qualifier?

Friendlies alone won't do for we have to remember that the players went into the Azlan Shah Cup on the back of the Malaysian Hockey League and their lack of fitness has reinforced the belief that the MHL is basically a tournament which has four good sides playing against social teams.

Despite that, we had teams who allowed their foreign stars to return home for domestic duties which further reinforces the fact that the MHL can't help national players stay in prime condition.

To stand a chance of making it to London, prime condition is exactly what Malaysia must be in for the Qualifier and MHF must work with the coaches and prepare an in-depth programme.

It may yet still be an uphill task to qualify but that doesn't mean that Malaysia must go into the Qualifier unprepared.

That may be acceptable in the Azlan Shah Cup but not when it comes to the Olympic Qualifier and this is something MHF, the coaches and players must remember.

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Nelson and Ee Yi good enough

Posted: 15 May 2011 09:48 AM PDT

Teo Ee Yi  (left) and Nelson Heg have a fighting chance to win the doubles title in India.

Teo Ee Yi (left) and Nelson Heg have a fighting chance to win the doubles title in India.

MALAYSIA will be maintaining its tradition in the Asian Junior Championships where Yap Kim Hock will be banking on top pair Nelson Heg-Teo Ee Yi to win the boys' doubles title in Lucknow, India on July 2-9.

The tournament was supposed to be held in Pune but has been shifted to Luknow which used to host the famous Syed Modi International championships annually.

There were also rumours that the tournament could make a return to Kuala Lumpur but Badminton Asian Confederation (BAC) had confirmed Lucknow as the new venue.

"Our main bet is Nelson-Ee Yi who have been performing well and I am looking forward to seeing them win the boys' doubles," said Kim Hock.

"We can field a maximum of six pairs if the tournament was held in KL. I have five more pairs who are about of the same level and they are good enough to reach the last four. We will select three pairs for the Asian Juniors and a decision will be soon."

Malaysia also missed out on a potential gold in the mixed doubles through Tan Aik Quan and Lai Pei Jing as the latter is over-aged and the next strongest pair, Nelson-Shevon Lai Jemie, are not expected to trouble combinations from China and South Korea.

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