Inside the '13 ISTAF Super Series: our Sepak Takraw Projections
There are some things that are simply assured in life. Ice will always be cold. Seattle will always be rainy. Kentucky Fried Chicken will find a new way to force-feed you calories. And Thailand will be the favorite in the next ISTAF Super Series.
I mean, you saw the Thailand-Indonesia final of Thailand 2011, just like I did. But just in case you don't remember the final of the first series of last season (loser), here's a refresher course.
I bet Thailand's tekong could be every other country's feeder, am I right? You saw the Thailand side winning in three sets, with Malaysia never scoring more than 6 points in a single set. You know about Thailand's No. 1 World Ranking.
But can anybody beat them? In the first of our series leading up to the first round of this year's ISTAF Super Series on May 16th, we've decided to break it all down, numberFire style.
If anybody disagrees with our Math!, then bicycle kick him or her in the face like the rattan ball they are.
Thailand - 65.7 percent chance of victory
Saying that Thailand isn't going to win an ISTAF Super Series is like saying that Pad Thai isn't as good as chow mein. You're just plain wrong, ok? With 80 percent weighted strike rate (percentage of spikes that reach the floor by opponent), we don't see Thailand's dominance ending any time soon.
Thailand hasn't lost an international match in 14 years. Think about that for a second. The last time Thailand lost an international sepaktakraw match, neighboring Myanmar didn't even have freedom of the press. (Although, to be fair, they just received Freedom of the Press for the first time in 50 years earlier today).
With a winning streak like this in hand, Thailand puts the winning streaks of the UCLA Bruins, Los Angeles Lakers, and President Obama to shame. I guess it's easy, though, to win international competitions when you invented the sport. Just ask the USA and baseball, right?
Malaysia - 10.3 percent chance of victory
The No. 2 ranked team on the current ISTAF rankings, Malaysia should be considered the pre-2004 Red Sox of the ISTAF Super Series for you heathens that need an American sports comparison. Always playing little brother to the Steinbrenner-led Yankees, Malaysia could very well shock the (southeast Asian portion of the) world with a victory this May.
There is one key component to Malaysia's game that some may see as underrated: home-court advantage. The lush home settings of Kuala Lumpur means that the Malaysian side won't need to travel for its first May 16th match. Thailand, meanwhile, will need to take the long journey of *shock* two hours by plane! That's about as long as Philadelphia to Chicago! I'm not sure how they're going to handle it.
Philippines - 4.6 percent chance of victory
Don't sleep on the Filipino team that took down the King's Cup from Brunei last year? This is a team that has been on a roll, climbing inside the top ten in the world rankings.
With Rheyjey Ortouste playing like he's Suebsak Phunsueb, this squad should provide a tough challenge to any side it faces. An average of 7.9 opponent-adjusted kills per set is absolutely incredible. That King's Cup squad, which consisted of nothing but students from the Earist school, should all be returning for their next potential international triumph.
USA - 1.2 percent chance of victory
USA! USA! USA! Yes, you have your American sepaktekraw jerseys all ready, and you know about the historic feats of that 1987 Northrop University team that traveled to Kuala Lumpur and took home the gold. Between your daily prayer rituals to Kurt Sonderegger, however, you may want to check out the stats behind the Americans' last ISTAF season.
In last season's Thailand 2011, the USA lost in straight sets to both the Philippines and Singapore. In the most recent ISTAF World Cup series, the season one-ending Thailand 2012, the U.S. was able to advance to the third day after a thrilling five set victory over Germany. However, losing in straight sets to both Malaysia and Singapore dampened their chances once again. After adjusting for opponent-strength, the U.S. was only able to maintain an offensive rating of 4.9 points per 15 serves.
Until they take at least one set from one of the top five teams, our projections are bullish on the world's No. 10 sepak takraw squad. However, if we know one thing about U.S. history, it's that manifest destiny will eventually run its course. With a few five-star recruits popping up in L.A. and Miami, it's only a matter of time before the U.S. is at the top of the charts.