Stalwarts Sunli Chhetri and Renedy Singh's departure for East Bengal cast a lot of doubts about JCT's immediate future. But long-time coach Sukhwinder Singh believes that prediction is a futile exercise and prefers to live in the present.
And with the Punjab outfit making it to the semifinals of the 121st Osian's Durand Cup, the present, at least for now, seems rosy. Sukhwinder's boys also seem to have come to terms with the loss of Chhetri and Renedy, who were key to JCT's fortunes in the past couple of years.
"What do you say about our performance? Are we doing well without them," Sukhwinder shot back when asked to comment on his team's showing so far in the tournament.
The team's clinical performances in the quarterfinal stage not only give JCT a slight edge against Mahindra United —the two lock horns in the first semifinal on Thursday, a day before Churchill Brothers meet Sporting Clube de Goa — but it also boosts their prospects of doing well in the I-League. Baljeet Singh Sahni, Julius Akpele, Balwant Singh and Eduardo De Escober gelled well together in the midfield, more than making up for Renedy's absence, while 'keeper Karanjit Singh made some crucial saves.
The only cause for concern for JCT is Baldeep Singh senior, who is down with an ankle injury and is doubtful for Thursday's match.
"Players moving in and out of clubs are part of the system but I think we still have the team to do well and win tournaments," Sukhwinder's said.
Going in to the semifinals with an all-win record would give any team a heady feeling, but the Punjab outfit, who last won the tournament way back in 1996, is aware that Mahindra will be a hard nut to crack.
The Mumbai based team started with a bang —they blanked Army XI 3-0 in their first match but draws against Mumbai FC and Churchill might have disturbed the momentum a bit.
"I'm pretty happy with the team's showing. Lets see how it goes," said coach Derek Pereira, who rotated his players quite frequently in the run-up to the semifinals, keeping in mind Delhi's hot and humid climate.
"It's very hot and the players tire quickly. So I'm using them carefully," Pereira explained.
“That is the reason I didn’t start with Ajayan and Pierre in our match against Churchill,” Pereira added. Mahindra reaching this far without the services of midfielders Steven Dias and NP Pradeep, whose fate still hangs in balance, deserves accolades.
The midfield wore an unsettled look in the absence of the two key players but K Ajayan and Douhou Pierre's efforts cannot be overlooked.
While Pierre has the ability to distribute telling passes and functions as a perfect conduit for supplies to the front men Manjit Singh, Edeh Chidi, Mohammed Rafi and Ajayan has the pace that helps navigate in the middle.