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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

People should give Mahesh bhai credit for our clean sheets: Jhingan praises assistant coach

'Mahesh bhai has been one of the stalwarts of the game during his days as a player, and now we learn so much from his experience'

PTI Doha Published 11.01.24, 10:41 AM
India defender Sandesh Jhingan during a training session in Doha.

India defender Sandesh Jhingan during a training session in Doha. AIFF

India had nine clean sheets in 2023 and star centre-back Sandesh Jhingan on Wednesday attributed the defenders' success in the year gone by to the team's assistant coach Mahesh Gawli, who was one of the top central defenders of his time.

While the players did the job on the field, the man quietly working behind the scenes was Gawli.

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The respect that Gawli commands within the dressing room as one of the best defenders of his time and as an assistant coach is massive.

"Mahesh bhai has been one of the stalwarts of the game during his days as a player, and now we learn so much from his experience," Jhingan said.

"What he's done for the country is immense, it's just great to have him around. People should give him a lot of credit when they praise us for keeping clean sheets."

Gawli, 43, played for India in 68 matches between 2000 and 2011, marshalling the team's defence alongside people like Deepak Mondal and then Gouramangi Singh.

Speaking about Gawli, Jhingan said, "I still remember the first time I met him, it was quite unique. It was 2013 or 2014, and I was yet to make my debut for India.

"Subrata bhai (Paul) first introduced me to him and said, this is Jhingan, he will be the next big defender and all that, and then he asked Mahesh bhai to give me his blessings. I bent down and took blessings from him. That's the kind of respect he commands from everyone around him."

India are set to play in the AFC Asian Cup for the fifth time in the history of the tournament and have been drawn alongside Australia (January 13), Uzbekistan (January 18), and Syria (January 23).

For Jhingan and the Blue Tigers, it's all about remaining focused on the job ahead.

"The tournament atmosphere is different, but it's great. You want to be a part of such an atmosphere, and I enjoy it quite a bit," Jhingan said.

"But when you're in that moment, you don't get to feel much of it, because you're in the zone or the mind space.

"In 2019, we didn't feel it as much, but once you come out of it, you realise that this was there, and then you tend to reflect on it," he said.

"But we're all grateful to be here at such a prestigious tournament, and there's positive energy all around. To be a part of the whole journey, and to finally arrive at the main stage is a moment of pride."

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