With manager Stephen Constantine set to name 30 probables for the games in March, we look at five uncapped stars who should be in the fray…
It has been a whirlwind and fascinating I-League season so far coming right on the back of what was a ground breaking Indian Super League campaign. In both of Indian football’s premier competitions, many stars, established and new have caught the eye of fans and experts alike.
On its part, the national team has flown the flag high with some impressive performances, recently achieving their highest FIFA ranking in a decade. Now, its almost time for manager Stephen Constantine to name his list of 30 probables for the two games coming up next month. The focus is clearly on adding squad depth and increasing the pool of talent available to pick from ahead of big games such as the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. With that in mind, Khel Now looks at five players, who could add a different dimension to the Blue Tigers.
1. Jayesh Rane
The youngster has been touted for big things ever since he first burst onto the scene with Mumbai FC. He was a key part of the Chennaiyin FC squad that won the ISL in 2015 and received high praise from Italian manager Marco Materazzi. He was not able to live up to the same standards in the following campaign.
However, a move to Aizawl FC ahead of the I-League season seems to have rejuvenated his career. The winger has been a star performer in the Northeast outfit’s fine start to the season and continues to enjoy his association with manager Khalid Jamil.
Jayesh has been in fine form over the last couple of years and has a certain dynamism to his game
Adept at playing on either wing Rane brings dynamism and pace to the table. In addition, he’s a good crosser of the ball and his directness as well as the ability to run at defenders makes it tricky for teams to keep him quiet. He’s also quality on set-pieces and is a clinical finisher who knows his way in front of goal. As such, Rane presents the kind of complete package that any coach would love in his team.
Jayesh has already started all seven games for Aizawl FC this I-league season and the stylish winger has also scored two goals, adding to the numerous chances he has created going forward.
2. Anas Edathodika
The tall centre-back is 29 and suprisingly is yet to feature for the national team. Edathodika has been around the Indian circuit for sometime now, but the defender truly came to the fore with Delhi Dynamos in 2015 under the tutelage of Brazilian great Roberto Carlos. He followed that up with some more impressive performances under Gianluca Zambrotta in 2016 and is now a mainstay in the Mohun Bagan back-four.
Edathodika is a solid defender with good positional sense, timely interceptions and doesn’t mind crunching into tackles. With his wide range of experience he will also add more leadership qualities in the ranks. To put it simply, the defender deserves a look in in Constantine’s plans.
In a heavily successful ISL season (III), Anas played 11 league games for the Dynamos, making 26 crunching tackles, winning 7 aerial duels and making 17 interceptions. With ‘Rocha’ Ruben Gonzalez, Anas absolutely made an unbreachable pair in the Dynamos defensive line-up. Anas has also started every game for Mohun Bagan this I-league season, notching four clean sheets.
3. Nikhil Poojary
The U-22 player has impressed for East Bengal and is the unsung name in our list. Irrespective of the rule that mandates I-League clubs to have an U-22 player in their starting line-up, Poojary has held his place in the team by weight of performances. What sets him apart from most players his age is his intelligence in the final third.
Good with crosses and at marauding down the flanks, he’s also good at making late runs into the box and makes the most of goalscoring opportunities. Already a regular starter at a top club like East Bengal, he has shown he has the ability and the character to thrive in national colours.
Nikhil has started every game for a star-studded East Bengal team this I-league season and provided the assist for Haokip’s first goal against Churchill Brothers in the away fixture. The youngster looks raring to go and can add a completely different dimension and bravery to the right wing for the Blue Tigers.
4. Jerry Lalrinzuala
The left-back was one of the finds of the ISL last time and was one of the few shining lights in what was a disappointing season for the Super Machans. He was recognized for his outstanding performances with the Emerging Player award and has continued his development at an improving DSK Shivajians outfit.
Jerry scored this stunning free-kick against FC Goa in ISL 2016
With pace and intelligence in one-on-one situatiuions, Lalrinzuala is sure to become a key memner of the Blue Tigers squad in the years to come. Although young, blooding him in now will only aid his speedy progress and give him added confidence that he belongs at the highest level.
He’s the one with the least pedigree in all our picks. But, he’s the biggest sensation of the moment, billed by many as the next big thing in Indian football and rightly so given his recent form.
Featuring in all but one game in the ISL for Chennaiyin FC, Jerry had made the left-side of defense his own. The diminutive player made 29 tackles, also doubling it up with 6 aerial duels won and 16 interceptions. For someone his age performing at this level is surely praise-worthy. The youngster has also been one of the key players in the DSK line-up this season.
5. Milan Singh
The midfielder burst onto the scene in the last ISL thriving in the middle of the park for Delhi Dynamos. Milan adds pace and power in midfield. He also has a powerful shot from distance and a knack of scoring important goals.
Given his versatility and other qualities Milan bring something different to the table for the national team. Moreover, if Constantine is keen to experiment with youth Milan represents an excellent option.
Probably the most hard-working player in the list, Milan played in the center of the pitch, playing 15 games for the Dynamos. The small-sized powerhouse is a tireless runner and has made 29 tackles and 17 interceptions, higher than even a lot of defenders in the league.
Add to that, Milan has also scored a few key goals for the Lions and is already a very important part of the DSK midfield shows why he is one of the most deserving players to get a call-up to the national team.
Milan scored a screamer against ATK in ISL season III
Ofcourse there are others who could have made this list, but we believe the above players provide options in multiple outfield positions. Rane is well traveled for someone his age, while Edathodika brings a wealth of experience to the table and if it is youth Constantine is keen to promote, Poojary, Lalrinzuala and Milan are the cream of the crop.
Honorable mentions: Kean Lewis, Anirudh Thapa and Debjit Majumder!