PETALING JAYA, Jan 27 — With automatic places in the prestigious 2022 Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals up for grabs, Malaysia have no intention of closing the door on independent shuttlers when they compete in the Badminton Asia Team Championships (BATC) 2022 at the Setia City Convention Centre in Shah Alam from February 15-20.

Teams who qualify for the semi-finals of the BATC 2022 will automatically qualify for the 2022 Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals to be held in Bangkok, Thailand in May.

That’s why the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), according to secretary-general Datuk Kenny Goh, will bank on their best players to carry the nation’s challenge.

More interestingly, he said BAM would not deny the independent shuttlers a chance to join the national squad for the tournament, which is organised by the Selangor State Sports Council together with the state government, as hosts, besides getting the cooperation of Badminton Asia and BAM.

“We will take a look at the available players, including those from within and outside BAM... who is the best. We will look at various factors, including in terms of player contribution and also from the tactical aspect because this is a team game.

 “I am always in communication with both the coaching directors, so they tell me that our preparation is good and, although we only knew about the tournament recently, the players are ready and will give their best,” he said when met after the BATC media conference here today.

The men’s squad emerged BATC 2020 runners-up after losing to Indonesia in the final while the women’s team fell to Japan in the semi-finals.

However, their success in reaching the semi-finals was enough for both teams to earn automatic slots to the 2020 Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals.

In the BATC 2022, Malaysia and nine other teams — Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Singapore — will be vying to confirm their automatic spots in the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals.

Kenny also said that the absence of powerhouse China would not make the BATC 2022 any less competitive.

 “To me, we cannot underestimate any team in the championships because if we look at it from the perspective of world ranking, nearly 80 per cent to 90 per cent (of the teams) are the best in Asia. So, to me, this is not an easy tournament despite the absence of China,” he said.

Meanwhile, BATC 2022 organising committee chairman Mohd Khairuddin Othman said it was an honour to have been selected as the organisers.

“With the participation of Asia’s top players, badminton fans in Selangor, Malaysia and the whole of Asia will be served with world-class fare throughout the six days of competition. It will be the best platform for all Malaysians to be united in supporting the players and the national team,” he said.

Meanwhile, Badminton Asia chief operating officer Saw Chit Boon said the championships would be held under strict compliance of the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs), which include guidelines and regulations on travelling, accommodation, quarantine procedures, Covid-19 testing and other safety measures.

He said fans would be allowed throughout the championships, although the actual number of spectators allowed would be finalised in the near future after getting approval from the National Security Council (MKN) and Ministry of Health (MOH).

“The local organising committee is working out and trying to secure as many slots, as many seats as possible for the public but I think, optimally, it still depends on the MOH’s SOPs,” he said. — Bernama