There are already a lot of memes on social media in Europe about why a coach keeps on picking up an undeserving player and it is high-time we bring the trend to Indian football. . .
Stephen Constantine announced a list of 35 probables for the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzsrtan on Saturday with eight U-22 players. The national team coach looks to have given a cold shoulder to a few players who deserve to have made the cut. The fact that various players who haven’t even kicked a football in the last few months have been picked ahead of players who have led teams to titles is bemusing to say the least.
Here, we take a look at five players who were criminally left out of the national fold by the Englishman as he readies the Blue Tigers to take on the Kyrgyz Republic in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier on 13th June to be played in Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bangalore.
Zohmingliana Ralte: The Aizawl FC vice-captain was one of the shining lights in their illustrious campaign in the I-league this season. The 29-year-old is at the peak of his powers and has played a stellar role in taking the Northeast side to silverware. Ralte has matured immensely under the tutelage of Khalid Jamil and looks as one of the most convincing markers and aerial defenders in Indian football currently.
Ralte is a thoroughbred fighter and has seen a lot of ups-and-downs in his football career to reach the pinnacle.
It is baffling to see someone who kept 8 clean sheets while playing every minute of a domestic league winning campaign sitting out. The defender also scored the only goal in the penultimate game against Mohun Bagan at home, tilting the title in his side’s favour. Constantine might have missed the defender’s quality, but it is bound to set a poor example to future Indian teams.
Balwant Singh: The Mohun Bagan striker is a different breed compared to any other striker in the Blue Tigers squad at the moment. Hard-working on and off the ball, one who loves to run in channels and is a powerful presence, Balwant is a man trying to make a comeback after a career-threatening injury. Four goals in 16 outings is not the best outcome from a striker who played 818 minutes, but he still is the third highest scorer on Mohun Bagan’s books.
Balwant has had an average season to be fair but deserves to be in the side as he adds a presence upfront.
Balwant deserves his place in the side for his workrate. He’s always trying, something a striker should do. Daniel Lalhimpuia scored just two goals in his 15 outings and 892 minutes and is similar in terms of quality to Udanta Singh, and there’s no point asking about experience. Balwant led a Churchill side to the AFC Cup semis and is better than any other No. 9 in India on his day.
Lalramchullova: What a defender this 21-year-old has turned into this season. Lalramchullova played in 15 games this season, sitting out in the last three. He completed the full 90 minutes most times, proving his grit, determination and quality. Lalramchullova kept 7 clean sheets and was one of the finest defenders on the pitch, getting just one yellow card in the process.
While the team has five left-backs (close to a joke), the coach has picked up Pritam Kotal as a specialist right-back and Lalruatthara as his back-up, a player who played 11 games and picked up five yellow cards. There’s no sensibility in the pattern of picking up the players and it looks like Constantine is leaving out better players and picking fringe players just to fill numbers and for not attracting negative publicity, none of which will work positively for Indian football.
Brandon Fernandes: Indian football groups on social media went viral with Fernandes not being picked in the 35-man probable list. The 22-year-old is adept at playing various roles in the attacking third and can be safely called the best free-kick taker in Indian football. The Goan played most of his youth years in South Africa and has proven his attacking intent time and again, leading Churchill Brothers a lot of times single-handedly.
Brandon has worked very hard on his fitness and has burnt a lot of grass this season playing for Churchill Brothers.
Brandon has scored four goals and made seven assists in the recently concluded I-league and the ongoing Federation Cup, and it is not understandable why a player of his quality is time and again not allowed to wear the national jersey. Sunil Chhetri’s injury should have been the catalyst for Brandon’s selection, as he’s probably the only player who can conjure up magic on his own in the national football fold at the moment. Is it sheer negligence or some agenda from the national team coach?
Jackichand Singh has played seven games, notching up just 244 minutes, while a half-fit Cavin Lobo has made just two appearances in the I-league, spending an ironically-handsome 125 minutes on the pitch.
Jayesh Rane: Seityesen Singh made 10 appearances in the I-league this season, completing 90 minutes in just two of them. The winger completed just 489 minutes, scoring or assisting none. Let’s take a look at Rane’s statistics now. The No. 16 from Aizawl FC was their Indian attacking torch throughout the campaign and is still going strong in the Federation Cup, leading his side to the knockout stages.
Rane was arguably the best Indian player in Aizawl’s winning run after Albino Gomes and deserved a place beside his teammate and friend.
Rane received nationwide acclaim when he transformed into the No.10 role from his inverted winger role for the team and eventually played 1614 minutes in the I-league winning campaign, scoring twice and assisting several goals. He has worked on his fitness; his quality is out there for everyone to see but one.
It is a pity that these players haven’t been called up to the national team squad after doing a lot of good work. It will be interesting to see the eventual results in the Federation Cup, as that might have a bearing or jig-back in terms of decisions made by the national team coach. While we want him to keep taking the Blue Tigers higher up in the rankings, he must find a way to incorporate these amazing players into the national team setup.