I-League 2017: Player of the Week – Udanta Singh
There was never any doubt in the talent Udanta Singh possessed in his locker, but there were the usual whispers from naysayers when after winning the ‘Young Player of the Season’ award of the I-League last year, his performances went off the boil. You can’t really blame them, they have seen this happening before, Baljit Sahni, Manandeep Singh and Alwyn George (who won it two consecutive years) never hit the heights expected of them.
But, Udanta is different, he was always different. He possesses that small spark which can ignite a fire in a whisker, integral to what makes a good player great. After the last I-League season ended, injuries have, to an extent, curtailed his progress.
After receiving his first call-up to the Indian side for the Asian qualifiers against Laos, he failed to make the impact he made for Westwood’s side and was hauled off in favour of Jackichand who changed the game in for India. He suffered a similar fate against Kitchee (in the AFC Cup) as he failed to make his mark on the game.
Since then, he only managed to play in bits and pieces, but his potential and ability was never ignored. Not by the fans, leave alone the managers. Albert Roca, ahead of his first game in charge of the Blues, spoke of the importance of the then-recovering Udanta, “He is a very important player for us, he has raw pace, which will help us” he said ahead of the game against Tampines Rovers.
He played the last 15 minutes of the game, where he fashioned two goal scoring chances which Bengaluru FC forwards didn’t capitalise on, but again we got a glimpse of what he is capable of. Unfortunately, for him, and Bengaluru FC he couldn’t play any further part in their historic run to the final, who knows if he did, there might be another star on their crest.
But, fast forward to the I-League opener, he was the perfect foil to the sometimes defensive Bengaluru FC team. His runs from the right wing, his ability on the ball, and his intelligence made the West Block stand up every time the ball went to his feet.
His performance highlighted why he is, in many corners of India, being hailed as the “the Next Big thing”. The ‘X-Factor’ his pace and trickery adds to a team is unique, a sort that decides a close game, or a wins a championship. It is for no reason that players of his ilk (read Sony Norde) are courted by one and all.
The second goal, he scored during the game, was a thing of beauty. The goal was almost cliché, the way he looped the ball over the onrushing defender, gave that split second to the goalkeeper and the other defender to feel they might nick it, and then swoop in and volley it home. Poetry in motion.
The biggest indicator of the quality of the goal came for a certain Sunil Chhetri (who mind you, has played in the American First Division, and spent almost a whole season Sporting Lisbon), as he put his head between his hands. Cliché Alert: Passing the Torch.