Ranawade, Gupta and Imran rewarded for strong ISL showings

Source: Instagram

The Indian football team has reached Abha, Saudi Arabia, to play a World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan on March 21. Following this, India will host the same opponent in Guwahati on June 26, in the return fixture. On Friday, three names that made headlines were Amey Ranawade, Imran Khan, and Jay Gupta, after they received their maiden national team call-ups. These three promising players have showcased exceptional performances in the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) season, and earned Igor Stimac’s faith.

Amey Ranawade. Source: Instagram

Amey Ranawade

Ranawade has played a substantial role for Odisha FC in the ISL. The 26-year-old right-back has a tendency to overlap frequently, aiding the team’s attacking buildup. He has contributed with a goal and five assists. Although the right-back position in the national team is typically occupied by Nikhil Poojary, Ranawade has better statistics. Besides his attacking prowess, his defensive abilities are also noteworthy, as Odisha FC have registered seven clean sheets with him on the field.

Jay Gupta. Source: Instagram

Jay Gupta

Gupta is enjoying a dream debut season for FC Goa, catching everyone’s attention with two stunning pile-drivers and two assists in the ISL. The energetic left-back has displayed a balanced combination of attacking and defensive prowess. With 17 interceptions and 121 recoveries, Gupta has contributed to FC Goa’s eight clean sheets. However, he faces tough competition for a place in the national side, with Akash Mishra and Subhasish Bose being the frontrunners for the left-back role.

Imran Khan. Source: Instagram

Imran Khan

Under the tutelage of Khalid Jamil, Jamshedpur FC has seen a resurgence, and Imran Khan has played a crucial role in their stellar performances. Imran is having an exceptional ISL season, having scored twice and provided two assists. Known for his astute ball control and pace down the flanks, Imran can play both as an attacking and central midfielder.

While these three players have been rewarded for their outstanding performances, there are two others – Nandhakumar Sekar and Lalthathanga Khawlhring — whose omission from the national squad has raised questions among football enthusiasts. Both were named in the 35-member probables’ list but were left out when the squad was pruned to 25 for the upcoming double-header against Afghanistan. Let’s examine their statistics, to see if they deserved to be part of the squad.

Nandhakumar Sekar, Source: Instagram

Nandhakumar Sekar

Nandhakumar made his international debut against Vanuatu in June last year. Despite being called up for the SAFF and Merdeka tournaments, he remained a benchwarmer on both occasions. The East Bengal winger has made significant contributions with nine goals and three assists in the ongoing season. Those numbers are better than some of the national team starters. Nandhakumar has had 47 touches inside the opposition box in ISL 2023-24, surpassing Liston Colaco (33) and his Mahesh Naorem (37), his East Bengal teammate.

Puitea. Source: Instagram

Lalthathanga Khawlhring (Puitea)

Puitea has been a standout player for Sergio Lobera’s Odisha FC this season. Playing alongside midfield stalwart Ahmed Jahouh, Puitea’s presence has been felt in almost every game. His statistics in the ongoing ISL surpass those of Suresh Wangjam and Anirudh Thapa. With a goal and an assist to his name, the midfielder has successfully completed 736 passes in the ISL 2023-24, boasting a passing accuracy of 86% and creating 11 chances.

Also Read: Igor Stimac has shortlisted a 25-member squad for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan.

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