Jhingan: Anas will be a big miss but India has the talent to fill the void
Igor Stimac's first-ever national squad selection has drawn praise all over, owing to his decision to include some exciting talents like Michael Soosairaj, Rahul Bheke, Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Raynier Fernandes and a few others - players who were overlooked by former head coach Stephen Constantine despite the Indian football fandom's widespread desire to see them in the national team setup. Needless to say, there will be substantial interest among the fans to see Stimac's team sheet for India's opening match of the King's Cup in Thailand against Curacao.
However, when the Croat draws up the matchday squad on June 5, there will be one notable absentee - Anas Edathodika. The ace centre back's absence is bound to add to the woes of both fans and Stimac, but unfortunately, there's little anyone could have done about it.
Anas' decision to retire from international football after India's heart-breaking exit from the AFC Asian Cup 2019 came as a shock to most. For the past two years, the Kerala-born defender had constituted one half of the Indian national team's ever-present centre-back pairing alongside his Kerala Blasters FC clubmate Sandesh Jhingan. The duo's chemistry was central to India's rapid rise in recent years, which saw the Blue Tigers win many plaudits.
Anas's departure is sure to leave a massive void in the national team, one which Stimac will need to address on priority. In a recent interview, Jhingan shared his thoughts on the issue and opined that replacing his long-term centre back partner will be quite a feat to achieve. "It's sad that he left because I had a very good partnership with him. We were very good friends off the pitch too. Having him on the team was great. I do miss him and a lot of the other players feel the same. He was a massive character in the dressing room," he said.
"A player like him leaving is always difficult. What he brings to the team is second to none and his passion and commitment is incredible, as we have all seen," Jhingan added.
The 25-year-old, however, remained hopeful that India has enough talent and someone would eventually step up to fill Anas's shoes in the national team. "When a player like him steps down, it is a big miss but I think India has an abundance of talent. A lot of players played so well in the last two seasons. Subhasish Bose played so well at centre back in the friendly against China. He did incredibly well. We have a lot of talent in India. We just need to find a solution," he opined.
Jhingan also revealed that the mood in the camp was positive and all the players were pumped up to embark on a new journey under new gaffer Igor Stimac. "The coach has brought in his new system. We are playing more with the ball now - more of an attacking side of football. With the success we have had before, players are motivated. They believe they can do more. Everyone is hungry for more success in the King's Cup," he stated.