How defenders picked in India’s squad for Oman and UAE friendlies fared in Hero ISL 2020-21
As many as three players got a maiden call-up to the national team for the upcoming international friendlies against Oman (March 25) and the United Arab Emirates (March 29) in Dubai. National coach Igor Stimac’s squad has quite a few new names and here we take a look at all eight defenders who made it to the 27-member team and how they fared in the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) that culminated last week with Mumbai City FC winning the prestigious trophy after beating ATK Mohun Bagan in the final.
The 30-year-old fullback was a mainstay in the Highlanders backline during their run to the semi-finals. He scored a goal and assisted two for his side. Ashutosh Mehta was a big threat in defence with 62 tackles and 50 clearances to his name. His immense club experience will hold him in good stead despite it being his maiden call-up.
One of the brightest young stars from the season gone by, 19-year-old Akash Mishra will hope to make his national team debut in the upcoming friendlies. He played every minute of football for Hyderabad FC and provided one assist in addition to his 80 tackles, 48 clearances, 37 blocks and 55 interceptions. It’s his maiden call-up.
The versatile defender will hope to carry his strong form with ATK Mohun Bagan into the upcoming friendlies. Barring one game, he featured in all ATK Mohun Bagan matches this season and played full 90 minutes. He scored a goal and made 81 clearances, 75 tackles and 46 interceptions for the Kolkata giants.
Sandesh Jhingan had a strong return from injury and helped ATK Mohun Bagan become the meanest defence this season. His 119 clearances, 52 tackles and 40 blocks for the Mariners earned him a return to the national team set-up as well.
Chinglensana Singh was a rock in the Hyderabad FC defence and his strong performances didn’t go unnoticed. The 24-year-old defender played 18 matches for Hyderabad FC and made 76 clearances, 26 tackles as well as 26 interceptions. In addition to these, he boasted a strong passing accuracy of 84.34%.
Adil Khan moved from Hyderabad FC to FC Goa during the January transfer window in search of more game time and helped his new team reach the top four. The 32-year-old defender made 41 clearances and completed 27 tackles this season, and also assisted Saviour Gama’s goal in the first leg of their semi-final clash against Mumbai City FC.
Mandar Rao Dessai
First player to reach the milestone of 100 games in league history, the experienced campaigner made 17 appearances for the Islanders en route to the Hero ISL title as well as the League Winners Shield. The fullback provided one assist and also managed to complete 39 tackles and 17 blocks for Mumbai City FC.
Mashoor Shereef was one of the many Hero ISL debutants this season, and his strong campaign with NorthEast United FC during their run to the semi-finals was rewarded with a maiden call-up to the national squad. Shereef made 39 clearances and 18 blocks for the Highlanders in 11 matches and was a solid cover for their centre-back pairing of Benjamin Lambot and Dylan Fox.