Lee Zii Jia to skip Birmingham CWG - How will it help Indian shuttlers?
Malaysia's star player and World No. 5 Lee Zii Jia has decided to skip the 2022 CWG and focus on World Championships - making the road clearer for Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth to hunt for medals.
The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games will be an easier hunting ground for the men's singles duo of Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth with former All England champion, Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia deciding to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games, leaving the coast even more clear for the Indian shuttlers.
It's been a hectic season of badminton and the toll is becoming apparent on the form of players with injuries happening frequently forcing players to take wise and difficult decisions and opt-out of tournaments.
The 24-year-old Malaysian who just finished as a semi-finalist at the Indonesia Open, lost a spirited match to the Olympic champion and eventual winner of the Super 1000 event, Viktor Axelsen, 19-21, 21-11, 23-21.
In an interview with Astro Arena, the World No. 5 Lee Zii Jia mentioned, "The season has been hectic, and I would rather prepare myself to be in the best condition for the World Championships," implying his decision to sit out the Commonwealth Games, for which he was a gold medal favourite.
Zii Jia, who plays independently but still represents Malaysia explained, "I'm grateful for the opportunity to represent Malaysia in the Commonwealth Games but I've to humbly turn it down," putting the blame on the hectic badminton calendar. Lee Zii Jia will be replaced on the team by Malaysian youngster Ng Tze Yong.
The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to start from July 28th and ensue till August 8th while the World Championships will start from August 22nd-28th, without even a month separating the two prestigious events.
How does India stand to gain from Lee Zii Jia's absence?
While this is a blow for the Malaysian side, it is a major boon for the Indians. As it is the Commonwealth Games have a lower level of competition than the Asian Games where a lot of Asian giants play. At the Commonwealth Games, India and Malaysia are strong favourites although Singapore, and England are also present, among others.
At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the men's singles gold was taken by Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei while Kidambi Srikanth, in rampant form, took the silver.
Similarly, in men's doubles, the silver was claimed by Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
In the women's singles, it was an all-Indian affair with Saina Nehwal winning gold and PV Sindhu bagging silver and in the women's doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy claimed bronze.
In the mixed team event, India had emerged as the champions with Malaysia laying a stake to the silver.
The India and Malaysia rivalry has always been one to watch out for at the Games and now with the Indian side, backed by a phenomenal Thomas Cup win, in great form, it will be a medal shower for sure and the men's singles gold medallist can easily be one of the Indian duo - Lakshya Sen or Kidambi Srikanth, with the kind of rave form they are in.
Zii Jia has been a major threat for Indians given that he defeated Sen at the Thomas Cup (Sen leads 2-1 in the head-to-head, still) and Kidambi Srikanth (0-2) is also yet to win against this talented Malaysian with skills like that of Lee Chong Wei.