Box-to-Box by Arata Izumi: Hero ISL’s hottest young prospects
Follow former Hero ISL star Arata Izumi as he gives you a player’s perspective on all things ISL over the course of the 2018-19 season. New posts every week exclusively on indiansuperleague.com. Connect with Arata on Instagram @arataizumi or Twitter @neel0731
What a couple of months it has been in the 2018-19 season of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL)! As the teams round up the first half of their fixtures, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the best young performers of the campaign so far. The Hero ISL has always been a great platform for young players, but I really feel that there has been a step up in the quality this season. These players have come to the fore time and again, displaying some astonishing levels of talent and I can only imagine that this is the start of something special. Quite a few have caught my eye, but I have narrowed down my choices to six of the best.
Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City)
You can really tell that Ashique has matured as a player since making his debut in the Hero ISL last year. FC Pune City aren't having the best of campaigns, but this young lad has been a silver lining for them. He is blessed with great pace and physical strength and is also comfortable with both feet. But what really sets him apart is his composure and intelligence on the ball. You see many players wanting to pass the ball as soon as they receive it or even worse, not receive it at all. But Ashique shows character and courage to take responsibility when he has the ball at his feet.
Michael Soosairaj (Jamshedpur FC)
This lad needs no introduction to the Jamshedpur faithful. I have been mesmerised with his agility and timely runs into the box. He has all the attributes necessary to become a great winger. With his precise movement and calculated runs, I’m honestly not surprised that he has already managed to find the back of the net thrice so far. His ability will give nightmares to the opposition defence for years to come.
Komal Thatal (ATK)
This kid has enjoyed a purple patch of late. He scored his first goal against Bengaluru FC and then got called up to the national team camp. However, the real test awaits the youngster in the next few months. If he proves himself on a more consistent basis, he could turn out to be India’s wonder boy.
Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC)
Easily one of the most promising youngsters in Indian football. He has the ability to blossom into a perfect No.10. Despite his short frame, he is aggressive enough to take shots and often shows great positional awareness. He has the ability to make good decisions in the attacking third which benefits the team. With a few more years of experience and some work on his physical fitness, he could become the country’s best.
Mohammad Nawaz (FC Goa)
I haven’t watched him too much, but one thing I can say is that he possesses really good reflexes. One common fault in Indian goalkeepers has been their inability to properly read the game and give out instructions to their teammates. If he can manage to develop that aspect of his game, then he could very well become the best goalkeeper in the country.
Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters FC)
Without a doubt, Sahal has been the player I have been the most excited with this season. He is confident, motivated, hard-working and aggressive. He is one of the few Indian players to consistently play across the centre line of the midfield in the Hero ISL and he thoroughly deserves the spot in Kerala Blasters' starting 11.