Stephen Constantine announced a 30-man probable squad for India's International friendly against Jordan. While he did reward some players who performed exceptionally well in the ISL like Jackichand Singh and Nishu Kumar, the Englishman excluded a lot of them too. Furthermore, his tryst of including a lot of underperforming players like Manvir Singh and Bikash Jairu continued.
One ought to note that the Oman friendly following it would be the last international friendly India will play before they face Thailand, UAE, and Bahrain in the group stages of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. These players' exclusion could mean that they may not even get the chance of representing the nation in the aforementioned tournament.
Here we take a look at those omitted players and make a playing XI out of them.
Bilal Khan (Real Kashmir FC)
Keeping a clean sheet against defending champions Minerva Punjab in their own den, that too when your side is playing their first top division game, is never an easy task. But, Real Kashmir custodian Bilal Khan lived up to the task and produced two stunning saves in the game to bag the Hero of the Match.
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However, India is a country which is blessed with goalkeepers. And such nature of it keeps him out of our unpicked XI as well.
CK Vineeth (Kerala Blasters)
CK Vineeth surpassed Ian Hume as the all-time top scorer for Kerala Blasters this season. The Keralite's knack of scoring goals in the later stages of the game could have come handy as the Blue Tigers mostly resort to counter attacks and pounce on the chances after absorbing pressure.
However, Constantine decided to only include one striker so as to accommodate as many midfielders as possible. Unfortunately, that one position fell to a Shillong Lajong youngster.
#11 Mohammad Nawaz (FC Goa)
Unlike most of the leagues in Europe where the coach prefers experienced goalkeeper to guard the goal, Sergio Lobera entrusted his side with 18-year-old Mohammad Nawaz. His immaturity did cost FC Goa a goal against Northeast United FC when he collected the ball outside the penalty box, thinking the referee had blown the whistle for offside, only for Gallego to dink it past him from a quickly taken free-kick.
However, he made amends for it in the later games and even saved a penalty from Emiliano Alfaro. The Manipuri made a total of 16 saves, the joint highest in ISL this season alongside Francis Dorronsaro, out of 25 shots he faced on target.
The Indian No 1 spot is held firmly by Bengaluru FC custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Mohammad Nawaz has to up his game a lot to even come close to being a threat to him. But, he is our first-choice goalkeeper of the Unpicked XI.
#10 Mohammad Rakip (Kerala Blasters)
It is a dream come true for any Indian footballer to play alongside Sandesh Jhingan in the back four. Mohammad Rakip got the rare opportunity and he took it with full hands.
In the season opener against ATK, he displayed his astounding defending skills by keeping Jayesh Rane in check and even caused problems for the oppositions when he went forward.
The Manipuri has 19 clearances, 5 blocks, and 22 tackles in the five games to his name. Moreover, he has only conceded 2 fouls so far in the tournament.
Delhi Dynamos captain, Pritam Kotal is the favourite to start for India in the right-back position. Even if he is off-colour, the young and energetic Nishu Kumar is there to back him up. But, if Rakip continues to perform consistently, a national team call-up is impending. Till then, he is our first choice right back for the Unpicked XI.
#9 Ricky Lallawmana (ATK)
The former Aizawl and Mohun Bagan defender got his first taste of ISL football this season when ATK came calling. He didn't disappoint Steve Coppell a bit as he denied Thoi Singh and Jerry Mawmingthanga any clear-cut opportunities in their match against Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC respectively.
The 27-year-old has 16 tackles, 9 interceptions, 20 clearances, and 9 blocks to his name in the five matches he has played so far. And, like his fullback partner in the Unpicked XI Mohammad Rakip, he has only conceded 3 fouls and didn't pick a single booking.
With Subhasish Bose and Narayan Das in the fray, a national team call-up for the Mizo isn't something which will happen soon enough. But, he is the first choice left back for our Unpicked XI.
#8 Aibanbha Dohling (Shillong Lajong)
A little was known about Aibanbha and the Shillong side when they faced Aizawl FC in their I-League opener. But, he ensured that the viewers remembered his name, or at least his jersey number when he kept Ansumanah Kromah and Leonce Dodoz Zikahi in check. The 22-year-old cleared away every long ball and danger with both his feet, something that is essential for every centre back.
Stephen Constantine has received a lot of criticism in the past for including Sarthak Golui and Salam Ranjan Singh in the squad over other deserving centre-backs. One ought to note that even in the game against China, he experimented with left-back Subhasish Bose in the pivotal position.
While India was lucky to get away with it, it can't be the strategy in the long run. India desperately needs a proper centre-back in case Anas or Sandesh gets injured. With age on his side, Aibanbha is a viable option. But, until then, he gets a place in our Unpicked XI.
#7 Rana Gharami (Delhi Dynamos)
Not every centre-back can boast of having a goal-scoring knack and providing assists to the striker. But, then Rana Gharami is that rare gem who already has a goal and an assist to his name in the Hero ISL.
The 28-year-old became the first Indian goalscorer of the Hero Indian Super League when his long-ranger just before half-time left Vishal Kaith flabbergasted. Unfortunately for the Dynamos, the game ended on even terms as Diego Carlos equalized at the 88th minute.
The former Mohun Bagan defender also has 30 clearances from 6 games, backed up with 10 vital blocks and 5 crucial interceptions to his name.
Age is a very important parameter for making it to the national team. Those players are preferred who have age on their side so that the learning curve can be useful in their club career. Perhaps, that is the reason he wasn't selected by Constantine. Till then, he gets a place in our Unpicked XI.
#6 Michael Soosairaj (Jamshedpur FC)
Michael Soosairaj bagged the 'Best Midfielder' award last season when he plied his trade for Chennai City FC in the I-League. An ISL callup was impending, and Jamshedpur FC came calling.
He didn't disappoint Cesar Ferrando as he found the back of the net three times, the highest among the Indians and only behind Ogbeche and Coro, in the 381 minutes he has played so far. Couple it with 10 shots, 9 crosses, and an average of 31 passes per game, he becomes one of the most dangerous left attacking midfielder in ISL.
Stephen Constantine has reiterated in the past that those players would be preferred who can play multiple positions. If that is the case, he should have been the first one to get the call-up as he played centrally in the I-League last season.
But, only the man himself knows why he hasn't selected him. Till then, he becomes the first midfielder in our Unpicked XI.
#5 Lallianzuala Chhangte (Delhi Dynamos)
Delhi Dynamos haven't had the right start to the season they were expecting. But, Lallianzuala Chhangte's brilliant performance down the wings gives them hope that things can change for the better.
With a sudden burst of pace and staggering 26 crosses from 6 matches to his name, it is hard to figure why he has been left out as he could have been a fine addition to India's counter-attacking approach. Perhaps, his less contribution in the defence is the reason he has been left out.
It is surprising to note that Stephen Constantine had put faith on him earlier and handed him his debut when he was just 18. Chhangte didn't disappoint him as he came off the bench to score against Nepal in the succeeding game to become the second youngest Indian goalscorer.
But now, it seems as if the faith is lost. However, he becomes the second midfielder in our Unpicked XI.
#4 Thoi Singh (Chennaiyin FC)
Much like the previous name, Chennaiyin too finds themselves at the wrong end of the table; but Thoi Singh's performance gives them a ray of hope. After missing out of the initial games, he proved his mettle when he scored a brace against Northeast United FC in a thrilling 3-4 loss.
His partnership with Isaac in that game spelled trouble for the Northeast midfield. One ought to note that he is equally capable in the defensive half of the pitch as he had 71 tackles to his name in the 2015 ISL season, the highest by any player that year.
Thoi Singh had a below par 2016 and 2017 after that. But, he is making grounds with his performance with Chennaiyin this season. Till he catches Constantine's eyes, he is a part of our Unpicked XI.
#3 Lenny Rodrigues (FC Goa)
Overshadowed by Coro, Ahmed Jahouh, Edu Bedia, Hugo Boumous, and Jackichand Singh, Lenny Rodrigues is the unsung hero of FC Goa. The midfielder has completed a total of 307 passes in ISL so far, more than any other Indian
The former India international has 23 tackles, 8 interceptions, 6 clearances, and 5 tackles to his name, enough to prove his defensive capabilities. Coupled with a passing accuracy of 86.97%, average pass of 61.4 per game, and an assist to his name, he ticks all the boxes required to become a complete midfielder.
It is hard to figure out why the 31-year-old has been continuously excluded by Stephen Constantine. The Goan playmaker has already represented the nation 22 times and his experience could come handy in the forthcoming Asian Cup. Till then, he gets a spot in the Unpicked XI.
#2 Seiminlen Doungel (Kerala Blasters)
Seimenlen Doungel's super-sub performance against Jamshedpur FC deserves a special mention. The Yellow Brigade were two goals down when the 24-year-old arrived and had missed a penalty ten minutes earlier. It looked as if the Blasters would taste their first defeat of the season as no one perceived that Jamshedpur could leak two minutes in the last twenty minutes of the game.
His cross from the left wing was connected perfectly by Slavisa Stojanovic to close down the gap at the 71st minute. In a similar turn of events, it was CK Vineeth who was on the other end as he netted in Doungel's cross at the 85th minute to restore parity.
Doungel wouldn't have got a start in the playing eleven given the form of Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa. But, he should have made the probable squad in place of Farukh Chaudhary. Till then, he gets a spot in our Unpicked XI.
#1 Naorem Mahesh Singh (Shillong Lajong)
Indian football has a peculiar problem of its own. The country has been overdependent on Chhetri to produce goals and after his retirement, there isn't any striker of his stature to replace him. However, Naorem Mahesh Singh could be an answer to that gaping question as his two fantastic goals in the encounter against Aizawl sealed the deal.
However, the coach overlooked his phenomenal performance and rather gifted Manvir Singh a place in the squad. Judging a player by two games is a difficult task. But then, Manvir hasn't played a single minute of football for FC Goa this season.
Do you agree with our list? Do let your thoughts below in the comments section and let us know if we have missed out any player. India will take on Jordan on 17th November. The viewers can watch the game live on Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2, and Hotstar