India’s 23-man squad for the international friendly against against Palestine in Kochi on February 6 has five uncapped players. Sportskeeda takes a look at the quintet and discusses the chances of their international debut in this fixture.
Shouvik Ghosh (Pailan Arrows)
The 20-year-old Pailan Arrows skipper would have possibly won his first cap by now had the November friendly against Yemen not been cancelled. The young center back is a defender with great positional sense and anticipation and has matured immensely under the coaching of Australian Arthur Papas. Shouvik has coped well with even some of the best foreign strikers in the I-League this season and could be a target for several big clubs this summer. Being left footed, he could start against Palestine and become an important player for the national team.
Arata Izumi (Pune FC)
The Japanese-born versatile midfielder was the most notable inclusion in the squad as he became the first PIO (Player of Indian Origin) to be called up to the national team. Arata is one of the best technically gifted midfielders in the country and has been in fine form this season, scoring four goals from midfield. His decision to apply for Indian citizenship has paid off and could be an example for other PIOs to follow. It remains to be seen whether he starts in this game but his versatility and quality should at least see him play some part and thus make his much-awaited India debut.
Lalkamal Bhowmick (Prayag United)
For years, Lalkamal has been tipped to become a mainstay of the India national team but for one reason or other, the central midfielder has not been able to play in the international stage yet. Ignored by Bob Houghton throughout, Lalkamal deservingly earned a call-up during Armando Colaco’s reign but didn’t make any official appearances. At club level, he seems to have rediscovered his best at Prayag United under Eelco Schattorie and his fine strike against Pune FC was proof of his ability to score stunning goals from midfield. Form-wise, he should probably start against Palestine alongside Lenny Rodrigues but is more likely to come off the bench.
CK Vineeth (Prayag United)
It could be a dream debut for Vineeth as he has the chance to play his first international match in his own home state. Despite United Kerala’s relegation last season, Vineeth was one of the most prolific midfield goal scorers as he netted eight times. The left-sided midfielder has got even better at Prayag this term as he scored four times and has contributed to many other goals. He faces stiff competition from veteran Clifford Miranda for a starting berth but don’t be surprised if Wim Koevermans starts this highly talented 24-year-old from Kerala.
Alwyn George (Pailan Arrows)
This TFA (Tata Football Academy) product has made incredible progress in the last 12 months ever since his I-League debut for the Arrows in February 2012. Alwyn then went on to impress for the India U-22s and was part of the 2012 Nehru Cup winning squad, although the attacking midfielder-cum-striker only made one substitute appearance against Cameroon ‘B’, which unfortunately doesn’t count as an international cap. With Koevermans is likely to play only Sunil Chhetri upfront, so starting Alwyn just behind the India skipper could be a very good option.
Among the standbys
Besides the five above, there are five uncapped players among the 14 that have been included in the standbys list. With five I-League matches to take place tomorrow, injuries could see someone from this list make their international bow against Palestine.
Arnab Mondal (East Bengal)
The central defender has been the best Indian signing in this I-League and is possibly unfortunate to not find a place in the main squad. Arnab has been ever present for East Bengal, playing every minute of their I-League campaign so far and has been instrumental in their impressive defensive record.
Dhanachandra Singh (Prayag United)
The Manipuri defender’s inclusion even in the standbys list is a little surprising as he has had his troubles this season. However, his solid physique and ability to play across the back four probably caught the attention of Koevermans and his coaching staff.
Shylo Malswamtluanga (Prayag United)
This veteran’s name here is also a surprise because he is possibly past his best now but has certainly impressed Koevermans as he was also among the standbys for the cancelled Yemen friendly. There is no doubt about this wide midfielder’s quality though so even at the age of 28, he could still make his international debut in the near future.
K Asif (Prayag United)
The 27-year-old has been somewhat a late developer as he only played regularly in the I-League last season at United Kerala and this season he has been one of the most consistent central midfielders in the competition. Asif could remain a part of Koevermans’ plans if he maintains his consistency.
Sandesh Jhingan (United Sikkim)
The 19-year-old is another surprise inclusion but has been one of the better young defenders in the I-League. It will be a major surprise if Sandesh makes his debut in this game even if there are injuries in the main squad but has plenty of time in his career to become an international.Published 01 Feb 2013, 19:52 IST