ISL 2020-21: Akash Mishra, Rahul KP, Wangjam signify rise of developmental players

With ISL asking teams to include at least two developmental players in matchday squads this season, Akash Mishra, Rahul K. P. and Suresh Wangjam are among those who have impressed.

The 19-year-old Indian full-back Akash Mishra has played every minute of Hyderabad FC's 15 matches so far in ISL 2020-21, making vital contributions in the process.   -  ISL Media

According to the player guidelines of the ongoing Indian Super League season (ISL 2020-21), it is mandatory for every club to have at least two developmental players (born on or after January 1, 2000) in the matchday squad of 20.

In the past, teams only had to include developmental players in the overall squad but the rule to include these youngsters in the matchday squad made the eleven clubs involved sign more developmental players than the desired quota to ensure that they have enough options.

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The resulting increase in the availability of young talent made head coaches give more opportunities to these players. Their fitness, youthful exuberance, hunger and fearlessness was a major factor for their selection in a year where pre-season was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hyderabad FC's left-back Akash Mishra has clocked the most minutes among the lot. He credited the club and his manager Manolo Marquez for showing faith in him.

"Honestly, I did not think I would get so many minutes. When I joined ISL, I was a bit nervous. But, I am thankful to the club and other players who have helped me to express myself and grow, I am lucky that I am getting so much gametime and doing well," he said.

Former Indian Arrows defensive midfielder Suresh Wangjam, 20, has made 28 appearances for Bengaluru FC during two seasons in the Indian Super League.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

 

Marquez's HFC has sparked a youngsters' revolution with the likes of Mishra, Asish Rai, Liston Colaco and Mohammed Yasir turning out to be key players for the side, making it a prime contender to advance to the playoffs.

NorthEast United FC's 20-year-old Lalengmawia became the youngest player to captain an ISL team earlier this season. The Mizoram-born midfielder has been lauded by interim head coach Khalid Jamil as one of the best he has ever seen in Indian football.

"As a young player, I feel privileged to be one of the captains of this side and contribute every game. I know as long as I work towards that common goal, my personal performances will be decent. I want to keep improving and continue the good work and hopefully that will be enough to earn the India call-up soon," Lalengmawia claimed.

NorthEast United FC star Lalengmawia became the youngest player ever, at 20 years and 44 days, to captain an ISL team during his club's 1-1 draw against FC Goa earlier this season.   -  ISL Media

 

Indian national football team manager Igor Stimac will be delighted with the performance of these developmental players. They could be utilised not only for the senior side, but also for India’s U-23 team which is set to participate in the 2022 U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers scheduled to be held later this year.

- Most used developmental player for each team -

ATK Mohun Bagan: Sheikh Sahil (283 minutes)

Mumbai City FC: Mohammed Rakip (364 minutes)

Hyderabad FC: Akash Mishra (1350 minutes)

Odisha FC: Hendry Antonay (900 minutes)

Bengaluru FC: Suresh Wangjam (1005 minutes)

Chennaiyin FC: Rahim Ali (774 minutes)

FC Goa: Mohamad Nawaz (900 minutes)

Jamshedpur FC: Aniket Jadhav (642 minutes)

SC East Bengal: Harmanpreet Singh (386 minutes)

NorthEast United FC: Lalengmawia (1131 minutes)

Kerala Blasters FC: Jeakson Singh (849 minutes)

Another 20-year-old Rahul K. P. is the second-highest goal scorer for Kibu Vicuna's Kerala Blasters FC in the 2020-21 Indian Super League, with three goals from 13 appearances.   -  ISL Media

 

- Top goal-scorers among developemental players -

Rahul K. P. (KBFC) - 3

Rahim Ali (CFC) - 2

Aniket Jadhav (JFC) - 1

Jeakson Singh (KBFC) - 1

- Top assist-providers among developmental players -

Hendry Antonay (OFC) - 1

Akash Mishra (HFC) - 1