Wednesday February 13, 2013
Veteran Alex sings young Rafiq’s praises
By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Alex Liew, the oldest national bowler at 37 years old, is ready to welcome hotshot Mohd Rafiq Ismail, the youngest at 16 years old, into the national team.
Southpaw Alex described the teenager’s exploits in the international scene as a breath of fresh air for the men’s team.
But the youngster’s promotion into the national squad, upon the recommendation of national chief coach Holloway Cheah, is not confirmed yet. His inclusion will be discussed at the coming joint working committee between the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) and the National Sports Council (NSC).
Rafiq, who had been making waves in the junior ranks in the last one year, made heads turn this year when he finished third in the International Bowling Championship in Nagoya last month. He performed way better than several professionals from the United States en route to an astounding top three finish.
His explosive start to the season has led to Holloway naming him for the Commonwealth Tenpin Championships in Auckland, New Zealand from Feb 24-March 4.
He will be joined by three others – Isaac Russell Paul, Siti Shazwani Ahmad Suhaimi and Dayang Khairuniza Dhiyana Abang Jamalidon.
Alex, the 2010 Asian Games double gold medallist, said that the inclusion of the young and talented Rafiq would add depth to the men’s team. The others in the group currently are Zulmazran Zulkifli, Adrian Ang, Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek, Muhd Nur Aiman Khairuddin, Isaac Russell Paul and Aris Ardila Santosoh.
There is vacant spot in the men’s team following the premature retirement of Aaron Kong, due to injuries, last year.
“Rafiq has shown potential well beyond his age. His strong showing in the recent tournament was not a surprise to me ... he has been snapping at the heels of the top players since last year,” said Alex, a father of two.
“He reminds me of Adrian, who also did exceptionally well when he was at that age and won the hearts of the selectors to make the national team. They seem to possess the same styles and are very focused and determined in their game.”
Alex also believes that Rafiq “is a rare talent who will last long”, unlike some previous youngsters who fizzled out after promising starts.
“I think he’s here for the long run, which is good for the team. My only advice for him will be to stay modest, humble and never waver in his focus to achieve excellence,” said Alex, who has been with the national team for 15 years.
But the years have not dampened his enthusiasm for the game nor his hunger for success.
“Unlike Rafiq, I’m a late bloomer. I only won my first international title when I was 19. I’ve come a long way since and my main goal now is to steer the men’s team to a gold medal in this year’s World Championships (in the United States from Aug 17-31),” said Alex, who has won two silver medals at the prestigious world meet.
At the world meet in Munich in 2010, he bagged a silver medal with Mohd Nur Aiman Mohd Khairudin in the doubles event. In 2007, he was the anchor bowler for the Malaysian side who finished second in the team event in Mexico.
For now, Alex is just hoping to do well in the national selection roll-off next week. The top six will be selected for the Brunswick Euro Challenge in France from March 15-24.