Three full-backs have attracted attention this season in the ISL …
The Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 has so far been an unforgettable season for three talented Indian full-backs. Triple Aces – Hyderabad duo Akash Mishra, Asish Rai and Ashutosh Mehta of NorthEast United have consistently delivered outstanding performances this season.
When the season started there was a shortage of a fit full-back in India. Other than Pritam Kotal, who played as a right-back for the national team, there weren’t many who could easily claim a full-back spot. And even Kotal had played as a third center-back last season. Ashique Kuruniyan, who started his career as a winger, was the best bet at left-back, with Subhasish Bose also maintaining a decent performance.
India can now confidently consider three more options in these roles. Akash Mishra, 19, has been excellent for Manuel Marquez’s side and already has one assist in 12 games. His level of consistency has been remarkable and he has played every minute of Hyderabad’s ISL season so far.
Mishra roamed Hyderabad’s left flank as needed and he helped improve the performance of Halicharan Narzary, who is currently India’s top scorer in ISL. Mishra has also been good at defense, facing whatever has been thrown at him so far.
On the opposite flank, Asish Rai gave Mishra some good competition to be the team’s best full-back. He has been more adventurous at times and therefore more prone to defensive failures, but remains one of the best in his place in India at this time. Although he had one assist in 14 games last season, he already has two of 12 this time around and has played all 12 games for the Nizams so far.
The third “A”, Ashutosh Mehta’s career chart was spectacular. He was phenomenal for Kibu Vicuna’s Mohun Bagan in their 2019-20 season. Mehta chose to pick NorthEast as his next destination and picked up where he left off.
Mehta has been a strong presence on NorthEast’s right flank even as the team struggled to be consistent with their performances. He scored a fantastic pound header in his team’s last game against Jamshedpur and has one goal and one assist to his name in 12 games this season.
His one-off right flank crosses were a nightmare for the defenses, but the team didn’t always have the same quality using their right flank deliveries. Mehta would have had more assists to her name if NorthEast’s attack, involving Idrissa Sylla, improved in front of goal.
The 2020-21 season produced three key names for the full-back role. They have all been excellent so far and it will be interesting to see if they make it into the national team count.