The seventh edition of the Indian Super League may have had its fair share of ups-and-downs, but the one thing that continues to enthrall the audience is the cultivation of skilled youngsters.
The premier competition in Indian football is in the final leg of its group-stage schedule, but the levels of drama and quality football continue to rise as the days go by. Injuries and suspensions have derailed the momentum for the biggest of names, but the valuable contributions of the unearthed talents, especially homegrown players, have set a new benchmark for the sport in the country.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at those five Indian players who have stood out effectively in the ISL 2020-21 season.
Asish Rai has been a rock-like figure for Hyderabad in the defence, making 44 interceptions and 63 tackles in just 15 matches this term. Despite being just 22 years of age, the defender has showcased maturity in his two seasons at the club and has caught India coach Igor Stimac’s eye.
💪 Energetic and athletic! A timely and aesthetic clearance from our full-back Asish Rai.— Hyderabad FC (@HydFCOfficial) January 25, 2021
From his many such crucial moments, here is our #GetPhab 'Photo of the Match' for #JFCHFC #HarKadamNayaDum #HydKeHainHum #HyderabadFC 💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/00P0OZsGRZ
Hyderabad, who have risen up to third on the ISL points table, have been credited for homegrown players, and Rai, extensively this season and the youngster has rewarded the trust in him with two assists.
While Asish Rai is earning plaudits for his displays in the right-back position, his Hyderabad team-mate Akash Mishra is making a mark for himself as an attack-minded defender.
19-year-old Mishra is one of the many players who has switched from I-League to the ISL this season, and so far, his suitors and football critics remain impressed with his relentless crossing abilities from the flanks.
Akasha Mishra has clocked 1350 minutes of action this season, registering 56 tackles, 39 clearances, and 25 blocks so far. Currently, he finds himself among the tournament’s top defensive players.
Any ISL team would love to have a young forward who carries these major attributes - agility, vision, perfect ball control and finishing. And in Liston Colaco, Hyderabad house a player who is quickly developing to a proven match-winner.
Colaco’s lightning-fast runs down the wing makes him a nightmare for opposition defenders, and an example of this are the games against SC East Bengal and NorthEast United. The 22-year-old has registered two goals and three assists in just 711 minutes of play while having 28 shots and a pass accuracy of 49.08%.
The young forward, who hails from Goa, is tipped as a long-term successor of Sunil Chhetri. His unique ability to make and convert goalscoring opportunities out of nowhere makes him one of the top players to watch out for in the Indian Super League.
League leaders Mumbai City FC have a plethora of foreign talent to elevate their success rate in the 2020-21 Indian Super League, but in confident Bipin Singh, the Islanders have an all-round player they simply can’t drop off to the bench.
Under Sergio Lobera, Mumbai are one of the free-scoring teams with Bipin contributing two goals and four assists in 14 games. The Manipur-born winger not only acts as a mediator between a playmaking opportunity and the act of scoring, but he also backs up the defence to counter the opposition’s pressure.
The 25-year-old, who formerly represented former Shillong Lajong and ATK, may not have the best passing rate (61.09%) for Mumbai’s current style of play, but his work ethic and dynamism on the field makes him a vital cog in the club’s push for a title.
Professionalism is one of the strong words often associated with Alexander Jesuraj, and the Goa winger is reaping his efforts despite the odds against him.
Jesuraj, who hails from Tamil Nadu, has registered three assists in 888 minutes of play while accounting for a 64.6% passing accuracy rate. Goa lacks one overseas player on their roster, but head coach Juan Ferrando has often utilized Jesuraj in advanced roles, which may not necessarily produce goals but effectively work towards quality goalscoring opportunities.
The 24-year-old has been one of the key contributors in Goa’s current unbeaten run of eight games, and is poised to continue his splendid growth as a creative midfielder in the cash-rich Indian Super League.
Feature Image Courtesy: 2021 Indian Super League