Be-inclusive message for coach Igor Stimac
India's poor performance against Bangladesh on Tuesday has raised questions about the quality of players coach Igor Stimac has at his disposal.
The team's inability to deal with the burden of expectations came to the fore like never before under the lights at the Salt Lake Stadium. The likes of Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC), Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters) and Ashique Kuruniyan (Bengaluru FC) have never played in front of 61,000-plus fans and that appears to have unnerved them. Players from East |Bengal and Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, deal with the demand of passionate fans |day in and day out. A Lalrindika Ralte or a Lalram Chullova or a Mehtab Singh know |what it takes to play in front |of such crowds.
Strangely, there is not a single player from the I-League in the Indian team. Stimac, during the pre-match media conference on Monday, said he would keep an eye on ISL, even though that doesn't mean he will not watch I-League. ISL VI starts on Sunday and I-League dates haven't been announced yet.
'It's very difficult to play in front of such a huge crowd. Not an easy task. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan players are used to this because of the Derby clashes,' Ralte told The Telegraph on Wednesday. 'There is so much pressure of delivering everyday. We have got used to that,' he said.
As India struggled to break down the Bangladesh defence, one couldn't but help thinking what if Ralte had been there. Ralte, who plays for Alejandro Menendez Garcia-coached East Bengal, has a deadly left foot and is extremely good in set-pieces. Against teams who are difficult to breach, he is the player Alejandro banks on. 'Probably they are much better than me,' said the attacking midfielder.
Former East Bengal captain Alvito D'Cunha feels Stimac should now call I-League players also for camps. 'Since in ISL there is no relegation it's not that competitive. Whereas I-League clubs give their all to save relegation. The real test is in I-League. I would like our national coach to have a look at the I-League players also,' he said.
What about players such as Ralte or Chullova? 'Ralte is a natural left-footed player. A player like him will give Stimac a lot of options. I would also like to see Mumbai City FC's Subhasish Bose as the left back instead of Mandar Rao Dessai, who is an attacking midfielder,' Alvito said.
Mandar and Rahul Bheke struggled big time against the pace of Bangladesh's Mohammed Ibrahim and Nabib Jibon as Bose was warming the bench.
Mehrajuddin Wadoo, one of the experts for the official broadcaster, however, advocated patience. 'Of course Stimac should call and I'm sure he will. Look, he has not seen the Leagues yet. Many players will catch his eye. There is a lot of potential. We have to be very patient,' he said.
Aizawl FC head coach Stanley Rosario, who was assistant to former national Bob Hougton, wants Stimac to follow all the leagues. 'Why just ISL and I-League? Why not local leagues as well? His assistants can scout for talents and give him the feedback. Do you know how many talented footballers we lose because there is no one to guide them?'
Houghton gave a new lease of life to Gouramangi Singh who had slipped into wilderness after his TFA days. Houghton unearthed him and Anwar Ali and the duo played as the two central defenders for a long time as Dipak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli were nearing retirement.
'That transition was so smooth. Now can we see anyone after Sunil Chhetri? I am not saying you call everyone for the camp. But what Stimac can do is organise screening camps. You never know you stumble upon a talented player,' he said.
Too much of hype also is something Indian players are not being able to handle. 'Take Sahal Abdul Samad for example. He has just started and already there is so much hype around him. He is not being able to handle that,' he said.
Gouramangi thinks India desperately need strong characters at the dressing room. 'When we started we had strong characters like Bhaichung Bhutia and Rennedy Singh in the dressing room. This teams needs some players with leadership qualities. That's why on Tuesday we missed Sandesh (Jhingan) badly,' he said.