Providing exposure to the youth and opportunities to hone leadership skills to the seniors has been the philosophy through which the India’s preparations for the Asian Games are under way.
However, on Wednesday, the inexperience of the Indian team was on full display as the team slumped to a 0-2 loss to the much-lower ranked Pakistani side in the second of the two friendlies played at the Bangalore Football stadium.
To say India’s under-23 team is a work-in-progress would be an understatement. The lack of international experience of the under-23 players is a big concern for the team management.
Other than the three ‘overage’ seniors in the squad, only three others, namely Lalrindika Ralte, Narayan Das and Alwyn Geroge have played for the senior national side before. In fact, six of the Indian players made their under-23 international debut on Sunday.
On Wednesday, with senior pro Robin Singh sitting out through suspension, India’s lack of bench strength was exposed by the visiting side. The young players failed to rise to the occasion amid an ill-tempered game that saw rough tackles flying. Expectedly, star skipper Sunil Chhetri came under special attention from the visitors, seldom getting a change to make an impact. He had a long shot palmed away early on but could do little else after.
With repeated mistakes and lack of wherewithal to create chances, India hardly caused any threat in the opposition box.
Pakistan’s 21-year old skipper Kaleemullah scored the first goal of the match through a free-kick after being tackled from behind by India’s Laldrinka Ralte in the 38th minute. The second goal too came after an error, Sandesh Jhingan offering Pakistan’s Saddam Hussain an open field to double the score line minutes in the dying moments of the match.