On 12th October 2014, when the inaugural edition of the Hero Indian Super League got underway, it was a dawn of a new chapter in Indian football.
Into its seventh successive edition now, the tournament has lived up to its billing of being the top tier league in the country. It has also fulfilled the promise of providing a platform for young, upcoming Indian talent to showcase their skills and play alongside and against quality foreign players regularly.
The number of teams has increased this season to 11, with the inclusion of two stalwart clubs of Indian football – East Bengal & Mohun Bagan. While the ‘Red and Gold Brigade’ now compete as SC EAST BENGAL, the ‘Mariners’ joined hands with ATK to form a new entity ATK Mohun Bagan FC, to compete for top honors in ISL.
Coming back to the point of young Indian talent getting a platform to showcase their ability – this season has seen a plethora of promising youngsters make an impact on the big stage.
The most impressive for me has been the 19-year-old Akash Mishra from Balrampur. A pacy left-back with an attacking mindset, Akash has shown amazing skill and guile, while making overlapping runs into the attacking third and supporting the wingers while playing for Hyderabad FC. His defensive skills will also improve with time.
Another young talent in the same team is Ashis Rai. Like Akash, the 21-year-old Ashis has also played for the India U-20 side and embodies the same attacking spirit and skill while playing as a Right Back. Although a right-footed player, he can shoot with both feet.
I am sure that the Indian team coach Igor Stimac will have a happy headache in terms of choosing the left and right backs for the National team, as these youngsters including Hendry Antony and Mohd Rakip will give stiff competition to the more experienced players Mandar Rao Desai, Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das.
In Deepak Tangri, Chennaiyin FC have found a hard-tackling defensive midfielder, who can impose his presence in his half. Blessed with a strong built and good height, Tangri also provides an aerial threat against the opponents during corners and other set pieces.
Though only 22 years old, Anirudh Thapa is an experienced creative midfielder who has begun to orchestrate the game’s pace and flow. Into his fifth season in ISL with Chennaiyin FC, the young Indian midfielder has grown in confidence and stature and has shown over the last few seasons that he can not only create chances and be very accurate with his free-kicks but can also score goals himself.
The writer is a Sports Broadcaster who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India & Abroad. He is a commentator for Hero ISL in Hindi on Star Sports