Bhaichung Bhutia: Very important for strikers to remain consistent
The dearth of forwards has been an area of concern for the Indian national team in recent years. The legendary Bhaichung Bhutia believes that inconsistency among Indian strikers is one of the main reasons for the Blue Tigers’ lack of options up front. He expressed his concerns regarding the future of the Indian national team’s forward options after the retirement of Sunil Chhetri – the nation’s all-time leading goal-scorer.
“It is a big worry because after Chhetri there is nobody else. It is very difficult to answer why they (strikers in Indian football) are losing their way. Consistency, I think, is very important,” Bhaichung said in an interview with IANS.
Among the current crop of national team strikers besides Chhetri, only Jeje Lalpekhlua, Robin Singh and Balwant Singh have represented the Blue Tigers on more than 10 occasions. However, injuries and inconsistency have limited their appearances in national colours.
“Jeje (Lalpekhlua) suffered lots of injuries and now his age (29) is also not in his favour. However, Jeje has done a good job. I think it’s the injury that is the main reason (for him not playing more for India). Balwant (Singh) also suffered because of injuries. That is what I am saying, they didn’t get to play because of their injuries. But then, it’s very difficult to say why they lost their way. I will say it is very important to be consistent,” the legendary forward insisted.
Bhaichung also feels that more special grassroot programmes aimed toward helping the development of Indian strikers for the future is required. “The lack of strikers is a problem. It depends on the clubs because everyone is facing this problem. Yes, there will be (a dearth post Chhetri). We need to focus more on the strikers from the grassroots level. (We need) special training programmes for strong attacking technique from the grassroots,” he said.
With Chhetri now 35 years of age, young Indian strikers like Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco will be expected to raise their game. Both Manvir and Colaco netted in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) last season and they along with other young Indian frontmen will need to kick on in the upcoming campaign if they want to establish themselves in the national team.