The Indian Super League had an encouraging start in its first 2 seasons. While this site would like to see more young Indian talents given a chance in the starting line-up, the presence of any Indian footballers taking the field alongside experienced professionals is encouraging. Abhijit Bharali provides an all-Indian Team of the Tournament of the Indian Super League’s league phase.
With the end of the league phase of ISL-3, we take a look at the top Indian players of this season so far.
Subrata Pal (NorthEast United):
The 29-year-old shot-stopper couldn’t help NorthEast to their first-ever playoffs qualification this season, but showed enough to have the Highlanders within touching distance of the top four. It could be argued that had he not been out injured for his side’s final two fixtures, NorthEast could have made the playoffs.
Sandesh Jhingan (Kerala Blasters):
Jhingan has mostly played as a full-back this season, but his mere presence as part of his team’s back four has added a new dimension to Kerala’s defence. The 23-year-old will once again be key for his team in the playoffs, where they will look to keep their five-match winning streak at home intact.
Anas Edathodika (Delhi Dynamos):
Anas missed a few early season games through injury, but came back strongly to form a wall in Delhi’s defence alongside the experienced Ruben Rocha. The playoffs will see Anas and Jhingan go head-to-head in what promises to be a titanic clash across two legs.
Sena Ralte (Mumbai City):
Ralte has been a revelation this season for Mumbai City, helping his side to navigate the league phase with relative ease. The 28-year-old has played the most minutes by an Indian player for the Mumbaikars, and he will once again be a key cog in his team for the playoffs.
Jerry Lalrinzuala (Chennaiyin):
The 18-year-old edges the likes of Prabir Das and Souvik Chakraborty to make it into this eleven by virtue of performances that belied his young age. Teenage Indian defenders are rarely seen hogging headlines, and in what turned out to be a poor season for Chennaiyin, Jerry was a real gem unearthed.
Mehtab Hossain (Kerala Blasters):
The 31-year-old has provided the midfield ballast alongside Azrack Mahamat for Kerala, and along with that his passing has also been top notch. Mehtab makes Kerala tick, and his range of passing has been crucial to the Blasters this season. It is his service that sets Kerala’s jet-heeled forwards on their way.
Milan Singh (Delhi Dynamos):
Milan has been an unassuming presence at the heart of Delhi’s midfield, but his two goals handed his team two vital points in their quest for a playoffs place. With Marcos Tebar sitting in a holding role and Florent Malouda playing as a playmaker, the onus falls on Milan to do the running, and he has done pretty well as a member of the supporting cast.
Mohammed Rafi (Kerala Blasters):
Kerala have much to thank their local lads for propelling them to the top four places after their slow start. Among them, Rafi has stood out as his experience and ability to play the vociferous Kochi crowd meant he has rarely been out of the starting eleven. Rafi’s one goal and one assist might be measly return for an attacker, but he brings much more to Kerala than just goals.
Kean Lewis (Delhi Dynamos):
Lewis has been one of the best players of ISL-3, let alone the best Indian player. Along with Jerry, Lewis has won the most number of Emerging Player awards this season, and his pace, directness and eye for goal are some of Delhi’s strengths going into the semi-finals.
CK Vineeth (Kerala Blasters):
Vineeth’s sudden impact in ISL-3 breathed new life into Kerala Blasters. After a slow start, Kerala looked out of sorts until the 28-year-old local lad turned on the style to score five goals in only six games. His pace and cool head in front of goal are key assets for Kerala in the finals.
Jeje didn’t do justice to his reputation in ISL-3, but in what was a campaign curtailed by injury, the 25-year-old showed glimpses of how dangerous he could be on his day. Like Subrata, it could be argued that Chennaiyin’s fortunes would have taken a different turn had Jeje been fit and firing for the entire season.
Substitutes: Prabir Das, Abinash Ruidas (both Atletico de Kolkata), Souvik Chakraborty (Delhi Dynamos), Laxmikant Kattimani (FC Goa), Rowllin Borges, Seityasen Singh (both NorthEast United), Sehnaj Singh (Mumbai City).
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