The third campaign of Indian Super League (ISL) ended in a thriller when Atletico De Kolkata defeated Kerala Blasters via tie-breaker to lift the silverware for the second time in three years since its inaugural campaign in 2014.
It is true that questions can be raised whether the purpose of providing exposure to young Indians has been served successfully in ISL 2016. However, we can figure out some of them who were impressive throughout the competition and shown affluence alongside the likes of Florent Malouda, Helder Postiga and Diego Forlan – the superstars of world football.
A number of Indian custodians were preferred by their respective teams and most of them lived up to the expectations. However, it was a close call between Debjit Majumder of Atletico De Kolkata who made a crucial save to deny Cedric Hengbart of Kerala Blasters in tie-breaker, thus eventually helped his side to reconquer the title and Amrinder Singh of Mumbai City FC who despite having a late inclusion due to 2016 AFC Cup duty with Bengaluru FC, kept five clean sheets in six appearances and helped his team to win consecutive games in order to qualify for the semis.
Arnab Mondal, though missed out a number of crucial games with injury, once again exhibited why he is hailed as best Indian centre-back of current time. Also, Anas Edathodika of Delhi Dynamos was standout in his second successive ISL campaign and has been an easy pick in our best Indian XI.
However, there were many contenders for full-back position especially two make-shift defenders (Souvik Chakraborty of Delhi Dynamos and Mehrajuddin Wadoo of Chennaiyin FC) who did exceptionally well in unusual roles. But the likes of Sandesh Jhingan and teenager Jerry Lalrinzuala were outstanding throughout and the later won the ISL Emerging Player of the Tournament award as well.
Veteran Mehtab Hossain, one of the underrated midfielders of Indian football, worked tirelessly in Blasters’ midfield and played a pivotal part in their late turn around. Rowllin Borges, too, had an impressive ISL campaign despite failing to reach the semis narrowly with his side NorthEast United FC. Youngster Milan Singh has been a revolution in Delhi midfield and was highly applauded by boss Gianluca Zambrotta for his vision, intelligence and shooting skills.
Number of Indians were standout in flanks including Lalrindika Ralte, Seityasen Singh, Abinash Ruidas, Romeo Fernandes and Jackichand Singh. Among them, Kean Lewis of Dynamos had a majestic debut ISL campaign as he scored four goals and registered a number of assists and helped his side to reach the semis. C.k. Vineeth, on the other hand, has been the most influential inclusion for the Blasters, who single-handedly upturned their campaign with 5 goals in 6 appearances and ended his campaign as the top Indian goalscorer.
It was an easy pick for the forward spot as Sunil Chhetri had a miserable campaign who failed to net a single goal this year. However, Jeje Lalpekhlua had an impressive start and netted 3 goals in early stages of the competition. But he suffered an unfortunate injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign and his side Chennaiyin failed to replace his quality which resulted in a seventh placed finish for the defending champions.