Is there a short-term fix to India's problems ahead of the Iran qualifier in September?
The discussions over the last few days since India's loss against Guam on Tuesday have grown by the day and a lot of points have been mentioned about what needs to be changed and implemented to strengthen Team India, but I feel there is no short-term fix for our problems.
Why am I saying so? Simply put, for things to work at a national team level it takes time, which India doesn't really have when one looks at the upcoming joint 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers against Iran, Turkmenistan, Oman and Guam in September, October and November 2015. though India will have a longer camp in August to prepare for the tough match against Iran on September 8 in Bangalore.
I had written after the match against Oman an article in which I was critical about the drastic changes in the squad composition that Stephen Constantine had carried out because one could see that the stability in the team was lost though some praised India's performance against Oman, but in Guam those weaknesses were openly exposed.
The problem I feel is that after the 2011 AFC Asian Cup under Bob Houghton, in which players like Baichung Bhutia, Deepak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli, Samir Naik, Climax Lawrence, Renedy Singh and Abhishek Yadav had their big international moment. Other players like N.P. Pradeep, Steven Dias, Mehrajuddin Wadoo or Anwar, to name a few, under the new coach Wim Koevermans disappeared and new players or some older one's, who didn't play any role under Bob were suddenly in the squad.
Squad selection has been poor for the last few years
Now Stephen Constantine has come in and once more culled the national team and interestingly says that he has axed players who have been playing for seven/eight years for Team India. Sorry Stephen but there is where you are factually wrong. Most of the players you have left out, have two or three years of international experience besides some, who have been part of the national team set-up for over a decade and have even played under you. So squad selection has been an issue now with Team India for the last four years.
And what I have felt has been lacking since the Bob Houghton days, is the national coaches ability to judge which players, when they put on an India shirt will give everything for the country and excel, even if their club form hasn't the best.
Take Sunil Chhetri, who had a poor season as per his own standards at Bengaluru FC, but at international level, Chhetri's goals kept the defeats respectable and one should not forget it was his two goals against Nepal, who took us through the qualification round.
POI’s won’t help India get to UAE 2019
Then there is the issue of Players of Indian Origin(POI’s) wanting to play for India. A topic which has been lying in the cupboards of the AIFF for years with no development or plan and strategy.
Now some think that PIOs can be the saviours of Indian football. There are a few boys, who could strengthen the Team India set-up, but even with these new boys coming in, it would need time to settle down.
As I have mentioned earlier, India's aim in the remainder of the joint 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers needs to be to get into the next round of qualifiers for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup as Russia 2018 is out of our grasp. We have to be at UAE 2019 to signify progress in the sport.
Building a new team is nice to do, but if India gets trashed by Iran and continue to dish out performances like against Guam, then Stephen Constantine has a serious problem on hand.
Our problems cannot be solved overnight and there is no short-term fix, except for Stephen Constantine to accept quickly he has made some wrong decisions and he needs to rectify them in the interest of the Indian national team.