In the absence of Sunil Chhetri for the upcoming tri-nation series, Sandesh Jhingan has been chosen as the new captain of the Indian national team. The burly defender will lead the Blue Tigers against Mauritius in the tri-series opener tomorrow.
Placed 97th in the FIFA rankings, India will take on St Kitts and Nevis, the third team in the tournament, August 25. Mauritius is ranked 160th while St Kitts and Nevis is ranked 125th.
While playing against stronger teams would have helped India prepare in a much better way for the match September 5 against Macau, still the team can garner some ranking points by winning the tournament.
India head coach Stephen Constantine said Friday that the tri-nation games will give him an opportunity to try out new players.
“My initial plan was to play one game, close to (the match against) Macau. Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei play similar style of football. (But) when the opportunity came to play two games, that gives me more time, it also gives me more opportunities to try new players, so we wanted one team from Africa, one team from Carribean, one team from Asia to make it a four-team tournament,” Constantine he told reporters here.
“The timing of the games is difficult. This time most players are doing club duty, it was quite difficult to get the teams we got. We have two opponents who will give us different problems and an opportunity for us to re-acquaint.
“People forget that we have not played since June, and we need more than 2-3 days to understand each other. We have two games and that is good enough,” the coach added.
Constantine announced that Sandesh Jhinghan will lead the side. “I have given more than 100 international debuts to players in my career. I believe that they have something to offer, and when they show that they have nothing to offer, they are gone. Sandesh was one such young boy and now he is captain for tomorrow’s game,” Constantine pointed out.
Indian footballer Jackichand Singh said Friday that the national side are not over-confident and will take one game at a time in the tri-nation series beginning here, Saturday. The hosts will face Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis as part of their preparation for the upcoming Asian AFC Cup Qualifier game against Macau, September 5.
“We need to take little pressure. We are becoming a better and consistent team day by day. We are not over- confident but we will be taking it one match at a time,” Jackichand told reporters ahead of the team’s training session here.
India coach Stephen Constantine has given young players chance whenever the team play. Jackichand, who plays as a winger, said that there is always acute competition among the footballers to make it to the final XI, but then that is not visible prominently.
“Each player wants to be in the starting XI. We do compete with each other, but we can’t do that openly. We know if we work hard and perform well at training, we’ll be selected,” he said.
Giving credit to the coach for the team’s recent performances, the Manipuri player said, “The team are performing well. It has happened because of the coach and trainers. The players work together all the time and I think that’s why we are becoming stronger. GPS has also helped us.”