Chennaiyin FC defender Gurmukh Singh has had to endure his time on the bench before getting his first full minutes in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.

Earning a move to the two-time Hero ISL champions ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Gurmukh played for I-League side Rajasthan United in the previous season. The defender also featured in the Durand Cup 2022 but only got a handful of minutes.

However, in the Marina Machans’ previous two outings, head coach Thomas Brdaric has reassessed and tweaked the team to field the Indian defender in the backline. By fielding the 23-year-old, Brdaric finds more room in the attacking line by having the duo of Julius Duker and El Khayati together thereby getting a boost in the offence.

Having featured in the 3-1 loss against Hyderabad FC followed by a resounding 7-3 away win against NorthEast United FC, the defender reflected on the playing style in the Hero ISL.

"Hero ISL players are of a higher level. The I-League players also play at a high level but the ISL is at a slightly higher level," Gurmukh spoke to Sportskeeda.

Having watched the league from afar, the defender doubted his character of playing professionally and was diffident when it came to making it to India’s top-tier league. 

"Earlier when I used to watch it on TV, I used to feel that it was a big thing to play in the ISL. I used to think they’re very good players. They are very good players, but I used to think I couldn’t become like them," he said.

Although he played his first two full games in the previous two matches, Gurmukh made his Hero ISL debut in Chennaiyin FC’s game against Jamshedpur, where the defender was subbed on late into the game.

"It’s the same thing where, when you look at it from the outside it’s one thing, and when you’re actually playing, it’s completely different. At first I was scared, but when I started playing, it felt like the same thing I had been doing [up to that point]," he added of his experience of playing for the first time in the Hero ISL.

With a fresh setup at the Marina Machans, headed by a new head coach in Brdaric, Gurmukh’s position in the defence line came below the new foreign signings - Vafa Hakhamaneshi and Fallou Diagne.

Although having got limited gametime, he’s gaining experience through each passing game and training session. The defender wasn’t too stressed about not getting enough gametime and has his eyes set on giving his best performance given the opportunity.

"My job is to work hard. From my end, I’m working hard and when I get a chance, I will try to play well. Whenever I’ve gotten a chance, I’ve tried to play well and I have been able to play well," he added.

Having made the switch from I-League to the Hero ISL at the age of 23, Gurmukh believes he can close the gap on the difference between the two leagues by learning from the seniors at the club.

"I have so much to learn now. It’s my first year. And I’m trying my best from my end. I have quite a few seniors who are defenders here, and I’m trying to keep learning from them. And whenever I get a chance, with God’s blessings, I’ll do the best I can," he concluded.

Leading at the back alongside either of Fallou Diagne or Vafa Hakhamaneshi, the defender from Ludhiana will look to flourish by playing alongside such experienced players and extend his spot as the starting centre-back.