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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Looking Back - Thomas Cup '92 (Part 1)

Malaysia hopes to do well in next year's Thomas Cup competition, and I thought it would be appropriate to have a look at the 1992's Thomas Cup, the last time Malaysia managed to clinch the trophy. The setting for the finals was in Stadium Negara, with a 15,000 strong crowd, the majority of them being Malaysians. The setting was perfect: Malaysia had disposed of China in the semifinals, and now faced arch rivals Indonesia in the finals. Malaysia had managed to beat Indonesia in the last 2 Thomas Cup editions (1990 semifinals, 1988 semifinals), but fell to China in the finals both times. Now with China swept aside (The Great Wall Cracks - The Star Newspaper Headlines), can Malaysia repeat the feat and beat a more credible Indonesian team?

Malaysia had hoped to win 3 points from the 2 doubles and the first singles. The other 2 singles, Foo Kok Keong (2nd singles) and Kwan Yoke Meng (3rd singles) had no hope against Olympic Champion Allan Budi Kusuma and Joko Suprianto respectively. Our 'jaguh kampung' on the other hand, Rashid Sidek had a slim chance against 7 time All England Champion Ardy Wiranata while our 2 doubles pairs have consistently beaten their Indonesian compatriots before. Brothers Razif and Jalani Sidek have beaten Eddy Hartono and Gunawan many times before. In fact, the first doubles was viewed as a 'guaranteed point'. Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang on the other hand, had a fighting chance against future Olympic Champions Rexy Manaiky and Ricky Subagja.

The stage was set. Rashid Sidek entered the stadium with the roars of the stadium, while Ardy was booed by the boisterous Malaysian crowd. Prominent among the audience were Mrs. (now Tun) Mahathir and the Yang Dipertuan Agong. While witnessing such hype surrounding this, we all thought - What if Malaysia lost? Oh the shame!

Rashid began his game methodically, and managed to pull off the first game 15-11. However, in the second game, Ardy showed his patience and managed to regain a set at 10-15. So we go to a rubber. In the third set, Ardy started to make some uncharacteristically simple mistakes, and allowed Rashid to take the third set 15-8. Everyone wanted Rashid to pull it off, but somehow, we were prepared for him to lose. But he won. And the whole nation held its breath while being bombarded by the constant commentaries of Hasbullah Awang on RTM2. 1-0 to Malaysia. And our hopes began to rise.

Then disaster struck. Our All England Champions Razif and Jalani Sidek, the best defensive pair in the world, who have also managed to beat Eddy Hartono and Gunawan countless times before, lost the first set in an unconvincing fashion. Although they managed to pull back the second set, but in the third set, their tactics fell apart. They started attacking more, while their usual style was to defend. Hartono and Gunawan saw the chance, and calmly destroyed Razif and Jalani 3-15. Their hopes were dashed, together with all the hopes of millions of Malaysian glued to their televisions. Malaysia's plan had backfired. Indonesia was in the driving seat now. There was no way Foo Kok Keong or Kwan Yoke Meng could pull off a win to accompany Cheah Soon Kit's and Soong Beng Kiang's.

1-1. Advantage Indonesia. Uh oh.

Stay tuned to The Badminton Blog for part 2 of the Thomas Cup '92 analysis!

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