India needs a set team, says Bhaichung Bhutia

Frequent changes and selection trials may not be the best way forward for India’s long-term success, suggests the former India captain.

File Photo: Bhaichung Bhutia believes India will benefit from having more foreign exposure as a team.   -  PTI

Indian football team will benefit from building a “set team” rather than a unit with constantly changing personnel, former captain Bhaichung Bhutia has said.

A litmus test of India’s quality would be its outing at the AFC Cup at United Arab Emirates (UAE) next year, for which it is grouped alongside UAE, Bahrain and Thailand. Host UAE, ranked 81, will be the strongest team in the four-team group.

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Assessing India’s chances of success in the competition, Bhutia said, “We are happy and lucky with the teams in our group, it happened because we reached that ranking bracket (India is ranked 97). All credit to the squad. It is tough, but not impossible to qualify from the group. With a bit of luck and hard work, we can go through.”

‘Cannot keep changing’

Weighing in on India’s team-building and preparations, Bhutia said: “India needs to build a team, cannot keep changing for every tournament and keep having selection trials, it becomes challenging. We need a set team.”

He added, “[Stephen] Constantine is an experienced coach, so will have things ready in his mind. We need to play with that team, in that system by now.”

Like India captain Sunil Chhetri, Bhutia believes India needs more foreign exposure as a team for better success. “We need to play lot of matches outside India. Different environment, psychologically also home and away is a big difference. If they can play in Dubai, a lot of clubs nearby are available in the UAE.”

India’s next assignment will be a tri-nation competition in Mumbai in June.

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