5 Indian players shining bright in their breakout Indian Super League season

Jiteshwor Singh is proving to be one of Chennaiyin’s best players in his first ISL season

The Indian Super League is the best platform for any budding Indian talent to showcase his talent in front of the nation, and understandably, the competition has unearthed many hidden talents since its inception in 2014.

The 2022-23 ISL season is not an exception either, as we have witnessed many youngsters proving their mettle in their very first campaign on the big stage. Before we enter the business end stage of the competition, let us have a look at five such players who are having a fantastic breakout season:

#5 Fardin Ali Molla (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Given that the team is stacked with superstars, both in terms of their overseas and Indian contingent, ATK Mohun Bagan is not the ideal place for a youngster to break through and shine. But amid the vastly renowned Liston Colacos and Ashique Kuruniyans, Md Fardin Ali Molla has been able to make his mark.

The 20-year-old lad from Kolkata was a part of the development squad of the erstwhile ATK, who was later drafted into the ATK Mohun Bagan camp. With chances being limited, he went to rivals Mohammedan for a year, before returning to the Mariners this season.

Since then, he has done enough to prove why he deserves to wear the prestigious green and maroon. After scoring two goals in as many matches in the Durand Cup, he has made seven appearances in the ISL. While all of those have been cameos, he has created one big chance and has had two attempts. If only he is given a few more minutes, it seems certain that Molla will get his name on the scoresheet.

#4 Saurav Mandal (Kerala Blasters)

Saurav Mandal has been impressive in the limited chances he has got

Saurav Mandal has been impressive in the limited chances he has got

Incidentally, Saurav Mandal was also once a part of the erstwhile ATK developmental squad, having joined them from West Bengal’s Rainbow. After only a season, he managed to enter the I-League, with Churchill Brothers offering him a contract.

Having impressed in his two-year stint with the Goans, Mandal bagged a contract with Kerala Blasters, and there has not been any looking back ever since. Head coach Ivan Vukomanovic handed him 65 minutes in the match against NorthEast United, which came after three consecutive defeats, and the Jalandhar-born player showed his class in that game by playing an important role in his team’s 3-0 win.

The left-midfielder has since made a total of nine appearances for the Tuskers, of which he ended up on the losing side on only two occasions. He has made 52 successful passes and has created three big chances as well. Despite playing only 182 minutes, the youngster has 130 touches to his name, which highlights his work ethic.

#3 Ayush Dev Chhetri (Goa)

Manipur’s Ayush Chhetri rose through the ranks at the Aizawl academy, before getting inducted into their senior team back in 2019, when he was just 16 years of age. Over the last three seasons, he was the chief engineer in Aizawl’s engine room.

Hence, it was not very surprising when Goa arrived with a lucrative deal for the youngster which runs till 2025, and with his performances this season, he has proved why the Gaurs were perfect in their assessment. Chhetri has been the number one midfield partner of Edu Bedia, ahead of the likes of Glan Martins and Princeton Rebello.

He has played 15 matches for Carlos Pena’s team, in which he has played at least 60 minutes on 11 occasions. Chhetri is among the five Goa players to have made more than 400 successful passes, while he also has 612 touches to his name.

#2 Lalchungnunga (East Bengal)

Lalchungnunga has been a rock at the back for East Bengal

Lalchungnunga has been a rock at the back for East Bengal

Absolutely nothing has worked according to plans for East Bengal this season, except that they have unearthed a fantastic central defender in Lalchungnunga. Like Chhetri, the 22-year-old started his career in the developmental squad of Aizawl.

He was also inducted into the senior team in 2019, but unlike his childhood teammate, he made a move away from the hills to join Sreenidi Deccan last season. After a fantastic season with the new I-League entrants, he was signed by the Torchbearers ahead of this season.

Lalchungnunga has started all of East Bengal’s 14 matches thus far and has played the full 90 minutes in all of those games. While almost every player from the Kolkata-based team has been a victim of rotation, the Mizoram-born player has been indispensable.

The defender has made the most successful passes among the Indian players in East Bengal (276), while he also has 14 successful tackles to his name. Having made 543 touches, averaging 40 per game, Lalchungnunga is among the very few positives the Torchbearers can take from this season.

#1 Jiteshwor Singh (Chennaiyin)

Jiteshwor Singh is another gem from the Northeastern part of the country, but he was not always destined for greatness. Instead, the 21-year-old started his career at lesser-known teams like Eastern Sporting Union and Rising Athletic Union.

He was signed by the I-League team NEROCA in 2019, and since then, Jiteshwor’s career has only experienced success. The midfielder was signed by Chennaiyin ahead of the season and he has established himself as one of the pillars of the team, playing alongside the vastly experienced Julius Duker in midfield.

He has made 10 appearances, playing the full 90 minutes in five of those games. He has 489 touches to his name averaging nearly 50 per game. He also has 280 successful passes to his name, but besides his toiling work in the midfield, the Manipuri wonder-kid also has a knack for joining in the attack, having created seven chances, and taken six shots.