5 ISL flops who went on to play for India
- We look at five players who underperformed in the ISL but still managed to earn national caps for India.
- The list features 2 players from Jamshedpur FC and 1 each from FC Goa, Kerala Blasters and Hyderabad FC.
The Indian Super League (ISL) has been the primary supplier of quality players to the Indian national team over the last few years. From Sandesh Jhingan to Anirudh Thapa, several figures have established themselves in the national setup after rising through the ISL ranks.
A number of stars from the ISL made their debut in the national colors soon after Croatian manager Igor Stimac took charge last year. Stimac has attracted wide praise for his strategy of calling up in-form players to the national camp, if not the final squad.
But the squad selection for the Indian team was far more complicated before Stimac's arrival. Stephen Constantine, India's previous head coach, mostly grabbed the headlines for leaving out players who were putting in stellar performances in the domestic leagues.
On that note, we look at five such players who under-performed in the ISL but still managed to earn national caps for the Indian team.
#5 Nikhil Poojari
Though Nikhil Poojari has always been a quiet presence on the field for Hyderabad FC, he has earned four national caps for the Indian team. He made his national team debut in 2017 while playing for East Bengal in the I-League. After almost a year without international football, Poojari returned to the national team in 2018, this time as a Pune City player.
His next national cap came against Qatar last year, in India's famous draw against the Asian giants. The 24-year-old has been in and out of the national roster, but his performances in the ISL do not reflect form good enough for international competition.
Nikhil Poojari has only 1 goal to his name from 27 ISL matches over 2 seasons, and has failed to be a regular contributor in attack for Hyderabad.
While he played the first season as a winger, he was mostly a full-back in this edition. Even if the winger can't be termed as a total disappointment, his recent performances do not favour him over Stimac's alternate options.
#4 Bikash Jairu
Bikash Jairu, plying his trade for Jamshedpur FC in the ISL, has a total of seven national caps since making his debut in 2015. While his debut in the Indian jersey was mostly due to his exploits in the I-League, he did earn call-ups even after patchy ISL seasons.
The 29-year-old, who started out with Pune City, played 4 national team games after a dismal 2015 ISL season without a single goal contribution. He later played 1 match in 2016 and 3 in 2017, again in the absence of impressive ISL records.
Even when he had decent contributions for East Bengal, he was not as effective when featuring in the ISL. Jairu has been with Jamshedpur for the last 3 seasons but has not received a national team call-up after March 2018.
#3 Halicharan Narzary
Halicharan Narzary had been a regular presence on Stephen Constantine's team-sheet even without glittering stats to show for club and country. The winger made his debut for the national team in 2015 and played 23 games until his final appearance in the AFC Asian Cup last year.
He has a total of 2 goals in 59 ISL matches, and had to wait till the fifth season to register his first goal in the league. Narzary scored his only goal for the Indian team against Bhutan in a friendly fixture in 2016.
However, he has shown signs of progress, recording 1 goal and 2 assists for Kerala Blasters this edition. Constantine's decision of playing Narzary ahead of various others wingers from the ISL had raised a few eyebrows, and the 25-year-old has failed to get past the probables list under Stimac.
#2 Manvir Singh
Manvir Singh, who has been a substitute striker at FC Goa for a long time now, has been tested in the Indian colours on numerous occasions. The striker has played 11 matches for the Indian team after registering his debut against Mauritius in 2017.
Manvir didn't play many games for the national team after his debut, but broke in again under the current head coach. The 24-year-old has missed only a single game under Stimac thus far.
However, his stats with FC Goa have been dismal, netting only 3 times in 47 matches. Though he has started only 6 of these fixtures, a goal conversion rate of 8% reflects his disappointing finishing. In a star-studded attacking line, Manvir has been put under a lot of pressure and been given limited opportunities, leading to a below-par record.
#1 Sumeet Passi
Sumeet Passi's inclusion in the national team even after substandard performances attracted a lot of criticism to Constantine's squad selection. Though the striker played only 3 games after his debut against Laos in 2016, he was a part of the squad until the manager's final assignment.
Passi represented NorthEast United in the 2016 ISL season and moved to Jamshedpur FC for the following term, but could play only 2 games owing to injury. In the 2018/19 edition, he scored 2 goals in 12 matches, but again performed well below the expected standards. In total, the 25-year-old has just 3 goals in 32 ISL games.
The 25-year-old was named in the national squad for the crucial 2019 AFC Asian Cup, ahead of in-form strikers like Jobby Justin. However, he has not featured for the country since Stimac's appointment.
Published 21 Apr 2020, 19:29 IST