Initially, there were rumours about delayed payments to the players. And next, the team failed to hold on to its key players. However, what cast a definite shadow on the future of Kerala Blasters was when the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) imposed a heavy fine on the team’s majority stakeholder, PVP Ventures, for flouting the rules on inside trading.

Like Kochi Tuskers, was Kerala Blasters also jinxed?

The Tuskers played in only one season of the Indian Premier League before they were terminated by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The doomsayers were working overtime, spreading canards that suggested that Kerala Blasters were set to down shutters. However, this sordid chapter is a thing of the past, and the team went through their preparations for the second season of the Indian Super League in right earnest.

Last year, Kerala Blasters were the biggest surprise of the ISL. After an indifferent start, the team dished out a solid display in the second half of the tournament and emerged second best to Atletico de Kolkata, the champions.

The Blasters have a new look this year having retained only six players from their squad last season. Kerala Blasters, based in Thiruvananthapuram all through their preparatory period, have a new marquee signing — former World Cup player from Spain, Carlos Marchena. They are managed by former England manager Peter Taylor. Helping Marchena in Kerala Blasters’ defence are Bruno Perone, Sandesh Jhingan, Marcus Williams and Peter Ramage. The team’s midfield will be marshalled by Joao Coimbra, Cavlin Lobo, Josue Currais Prieto and Mehtab Hossain. In the goal, either Stephen Bywater or Sandip Nandy will be the preferred choice.

Chris Dagnell and Sanchez Watt will lead the Kerala Blasters’ attack, with the Kerala-born Mohammed Rafi likely to be tried in a few matches.

Though Kerala Blasters finished runners-up last year, they had the dubious record of having scored the least number of goals — 13 overall. For sure, the team will focus on scoring more goals this year as they attempt to improve upon their performances of last season.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Stephen Bywater, Sandip Nandy, Shilton Paul.

Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Saumik Dey, Sandesh Jhingan, Carlos Marchena, Bruno Perone, Peter Ramage, Gurwinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Marcus Williams.

Midfielders: Ishfaq Ahmed, Peter Carvalho, Joao Coimbra, Antonio German, Mehtab Hossain, Cavin Lobo, Josue Currais Prieto, Pulga, Shankar Sampingirajj, C. K. Vineeth.

Forwards: Chris Dagnall, Mohammed Rafi, Manandeep Singh, Sanchez Watt.