The Indian Super League (ISL) has been a much-needed boost to Indian football, and has completely reshaped the structure of the game in the nation. From the lowest-ever FIFA ranking of 173 in March 2015 to 108 at present, the six-year-old league has taken the national team forward since its inception.
Thanks to the ISL, Indian players have found more playing time and an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names around. Sandesh Jhingan, Anirudh Thapa and Brandon Fernandes are few of the many names who burst on to the scene through the ISL.
While there is no doubt regarding the quantity and quality of players supplied by the ISL to national team, not everyone has been treated equally. There are a few ISL stars who have not played for the national team yet, despite putting in excellent performances in India's premier tournament.
Here, we look at the five best ISL performers who have never played for the Indian senior national team.
#5 Jerry Mawihmingthanga
Though Jerry Mawihmingthanga is still young, it is a surprise to see him on the list, considering India's below-par attacking line. The Mizoram-born player rose through the ranks of DSK Shivajians and signed for NorthEast United in the 2016 edition of the ISL.
After a single appearance for the Highlanders, he shifted to Jamshedpur FC for the following term. It was with the newly formed club that Jerry started grabbing headlines through his darting runs on the flanks. He scored 1 goal and provided 4 assists in two seasons, before signing for Odisha FC.
Under Josep Gombau, he further tuned his skills and returned 2 goals and 5 assists, remaining a menace to every defence he faced. After the ISL, the 23-year-old received his first national camp call for the FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Qatar.
Despite the fact that Jerry has a lot to improve upon, he might be able to outperform a few others who have been considered for the same position recently.
#4 Vishal Kaith
After three seasons of ISL action, it wouldn't be wrong to call Vishal Kaith an Indian star today. The goalkeeper, who graduated from the AIFF Elite Academy, made his senior team debut with Shillong Lajong in the I-League.
After a loan stint at Pune City without any appearances, he made a permanent move to the club before the onset of the 2017/18 season. In the two seasons he played for them, he played 21 matches and made 60 saves, including 7 clean sheets.
Vishal Kaith signed for Chennaiyin FC this season and made 41 saves from 20 games. Although he was not at his best at times, the 23-year-old managed to keep a shaky back-line together, even during the team's dismal start to the season.
Kaith was a regular presence in the national squad from the 2017 Asian Cup Qualifiers to the 2019 Asian Cup, but failed to get even a single minute on the field. As Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is an immovable presence in goal for India, the Chennaiyin custodian will have to wait for his turn in the limelight.
#3 Prabir Das
Though Prabir Das became a major talking point in Indian football only this season, he was not a disappointment with ATK in the previous seasons. After spells with Pailan Arrows, Dempo, FC Goa, and Mohun Bagan, the 26-year-old joined ATK in the 2016 season.
He played 12 matches that season and was an underrated player who didn't receive the credit he deserved. Das repeated his heroics the next season too, before a serious injury hit his career in 2018. After a whole year without football, the wing-back had a point to prove when he took the field under Antonio Lopez Habas.
Prabir Das overcame the challenges to emerge as one of the best Indian players this season, leading the attack on the flanks for the champions.
He has always been touted to be good enough for the international platform with his defensive skills alone. Now, with a proven past as a winger with attacking and defensive traits, the Indian colours won't be too far away from Prabir Das.
#2 Arindam Bhattacharya
The most surprising name on the list might be ATK's ISL winning goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya. The 30-year-old, who made his professional career debut with Churchill Brothers in 2007, has plied his trade for numerous top clubs in India, including Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan.
In the ISL, he started out with Pune City and then moved to Mumbai City, before coming home to ATK. In 38 matches over 2 seasons, he made 100 saves and played a pivotal role in their run to the title.
He received his first national team call-up in 2010 at the age of 21, and was on the bench for six matches. However, he failed to make a senior team debut, falling behind Subrata Pal in the pecking order.
With a number of younger custodians impressing in the ISL and the I-League, it would be a mammoth task for the Kolkata-born keeper to make a debut in Indian colours.
#1 Seriton Fernandes
Even after two spectacular seasons, Seriton Fernandes remained a stranger to the national team for its AFC Asian Cup adventure and the tournaments that followed last year.
The fullback replied with another effective season for FC Goa, and Igor Stimac couldn't keep him waiting much longer. He made it to the probables list for the World Cup qualifier against Qatar and was seemingly close to the final cut. Though the camp got postponed, Fernandes should be hopeful of a national team call-up soon.
The 27-year-old rose to fame when he came up with impressive outings for the Gaurs in the 2017/18 season. He maintained his form for two more seasons and has missed only two ISL games for Goa since his debut.
From a lesser-known defender in the Goan circuit to a top-class fullback on the national radar, it has been a quick change of fortunes for the Goan. With three seasons behind him on the highest level in Indian football, it is fair to say that Seriton Fernandes deserves a spot in the national team.
Published 18 Apr 2020, 20:05 IST