Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

Badminton legends Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, left, and Lin Dan of China have complained that competing in so many events this year would be a burden, especially with their age. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

KUALA LUMPUR: World number one Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan have expressed concerns about a new badminton tournament structure requiring players to compete in more events.
The complaints emerged at the Malaysia Masters in Kuala Lumpur, which has been upgraded this year by governing body the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as it looks to raise the sport’s profile and ramp up revenues.
The new tour series — featuring six levels and higher prize money — kicks off this year and runs until 2021. At least a million dollars is up for grabs in each of its top four events.
But it also requires athletes to compete in more events — the top 15 singles players and top 10 doubles pairings must take part in 12 a year, an additional two from the previous structure.
The Malaysia Masters, which has seen its prize money almost triple to $350,000, attracted many more big names than it had in the past as players seek to fulfill the requirements.
But some complained competing in so many events this year would be a burden, and a string of top players crashed out on the opening day Wednesday — world number two Lee, five-time world champion Lin and Olympic champion Chen Long.
Lee said he was prepared to pay a penalty to skip an event if he felt he needed to.
“If I have to pay a fine for skipping an event, I will. I’m not 25 anymore, I’m 36 this year,” said Lee Wednesday after losing to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.
“I don’t think BWF will review the format, because if they wanted to, they would have done it.”
Denmark’s Axelsen, who beat South Korea’s Lee Hyun-Il in the opening round, was also critical: “We (would) rather have high quality than too many tournaments where the best players can’t perform because we don’t have time to train.”
Five-time world champion Lin, who was beaten by Indonesia’s Ihsan Maulana Mustofa, added: “The top players will focus on the big tournaments... If we have to play in so many tournaments, we won’t play our best.”
The BWF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Malaysia Masters runs until Sunday.


Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

Updated 26 May 2018
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Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

  • Afghan smashes four sixes and two fours off ten balls
  • Leggie then snares wickets of Uthappa, Lynn and Russell,

A couple of days before what was effectively an Indian Premier League (IPL) semifinal against a Kolkata Knight Riders side backed by over 60,000 raucous fans, Rashid Khan told Michael Clarke, former captain of Australia, that he wanted to be known as an all-rounder.
When he came into bat on Friday night, the Hyderabad innings was going nowhere — 134 for 6, with just 13 balls remaining. Off the ten that he faced, Rashid smashed four sixes and two fours to finish with 34 as an under-par score became a competitive one.
In the defense of that total, Kane Williamson opted not to bowl Rashid in the Power Play. By the time he came on, Kolkata had raced to 67 from six overs. His first over went for just three, and gave his teammates time to breathe.
By the end of the night, he had the vital wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, a run-out and two catches as Kolkata, who needed 82 from 60 balls at one stage, fell 13 short. Afterwards, as the praise rained down, he didn’t forget to dedicate his man of the match award to those in his home town who were killed by a bomb blast at a cricket match a few days earlier.
“Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar. “Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
It’s not even been three years since Rashid, who only turns 20 in October, made his debut for Afghanistan. He has already harvested 100 ODI wickets in just 42 innings, and has been the scourge of batsmen in Twenty20 leagues as far apart as Australia, the Caribbean and India.
His IPL numbers are outstanding. Last season, his first in the league, he took 17 wickets and was one of only two bowlers at the top of the charts to concede less than 7 an over. This year, his 21 wickets are second only to Andrew Tye (24), while his economy rate is the best of anyone in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list.
In the age of ultra-slow-mo video and extensive data crunching, Rashid’s bowling remains a mystery to many. He can not only rip his leg-breaks and googlies, but he bowls them at such a pace that playing him off the pitch is fraught with risk. In a league as frenetic as the IPL, where consistency is the biggest challenge for bowlers, this was the sixth time that Rashid had taken at least two wickets this season.
In every respect, Rashid is the first global superstar from an emerging cricket nation. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, his Hyderabad teammate, helped put Afghan cricket on the map, but it’s Rashid’s skill that has been instrumental in their acceptance at the top table.
By the time Sri Lanka got Test status in 1982, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias were widely recognized as world-class batsmen. Zimbabwe’s promotion up the ranks was largely due to the all-round prowess of Duncan Fletcher at the World Cup in 1983 and a marvellous innings from Dave Houghton four years later. But none of them had millions watching their every move.
Rashid’s success will also inspire young men like Sandeep Lamichhane, who made a tremendous impact in the latter part of the season with Delhi Daredevils. Another gifted leggie with a beautiful action, Lamichhane knows that such displays can put Nepal cricket under the spotlight as he and the national team seek to mimic Afghanistan’s progress.
For a long time, Indian cricket board officials scoffed at the notion of players from such countries playing in the IPL. Now, after a season in which Rashid, Lamichhane and Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old prodigy from Afghanistan, have all starred, it’s only a matter of time before the franchises spread their scouting nets even wider.
For Rashid, there’s the small matter of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test as well, a fortnight after the end of the IPL. India will be without Virat Kohli, and it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be dishing out a square turner to greet the new boys. Rashid’s prowess should see to that.