KUALA LUMPUR - This will be the first time that Malaysia will be going to the Thomas Cup Finals without doubles players capable of delivering the points.
This is the perception of former international and Thomas Cupper Razif Sidek.
Based on recent performances of Malaysia's two top pairs - Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong and Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem - Razif believes that Malaysia have the weakest men's line-up for the Finals in New Delhi from May 18-25.
Despite struggling to find their footing in several Open tournaments of late, world No. 7 Thien How-Wee Kiong and reigning Malaysian Open champions Khim Wah-V Shem and Tan Boon Heong have been assured of places in the squad for the Finals.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will have to choose one more among these three players - Chan Peng Soon, Ow Yao Han and Koo Kien Keat - at their council meeting on Saturday.
Peng Soon is the country's top mixed doubles player and his experience can be invaluable; Yao Han is young and bold and the Finals would be a great exposure for him; Kien Keat quit BAM in March but his vast experience, especially in team events, can make a difference.
Razif feels that Thien How-Wee Kiong and Khim Wah-V Shem's inconsistency does not augur well ahead of the Finals.
"I do not see them winning a sure point for Malaysia. Their partnerships are nothing to shout about. In fact, I do not think the opponents are even afraid of them," said Razif, who partnered brother Jalani to help Malaysia win the Thomas Cup at Stadium Negara 22 years ago.
"Khim Wah-V Shem won the Malaysian Open (in January) but, honestly, my heart skips a beat whenever Khim Wah serves.
"It is not very convincing at all. I'm not saying this to belittle the players but I hope they will take it as a challenge to step up to the plate. I want them to raise their game and put the men's doubles back where it used to be. Malaysia were feared for their doubles combinations for many years.
"There are two more weeks before the Finals and I hope our boys will rise to the occasion."
In the Finals, Malaysia are in Group C with South Korea, Germany and India and Razif hopes that the coaches will think out of the box to field the best line-up.
"South Korea are very strong in the doubles while Germany will come into the Finals with the confidence of having beaten Malaysia in the Sudirman Cup (last year)," said Razif.
"I hope our coaches are already trying out different combinations and have an idea as to who they want to field. Hopefully, they will use the centralised camp (starting on May 4 at the Juara Stadium) as a platform to fan the fire and build team unity. Honestly, without unity in the team, I don't think they will go very far."
At the last Finals in Wuhan two years ago, Malaysia lost 3-0 to China in the quarter-finals.