ISL 2020-21: Meteoric Akash Mishra gets national team call-up

ISL 2021: On current form, no left-back in India is better than Akash Mishra, who has played every single minute of the ISL 2020-21 season. He is ranked second for tackles (80) for defenders, is second for interceptions (55) and has effected 48 clearances and 37 blocks for Hyderabad FC.

Akash Mishra is technically sound on the ball, has excellent positional sense and has the ability to dribble – which make him tick all the right boxes for a modern-day full-back.

It was after Hyderabad FC’s first game of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season when the team won 1-0 that head coach Manolo Marquez said league debutant Akash Mishra would go on to become the best left-back in India.

“We spoke with him about his first game in the ISL. He is very quiet, has a very good mentality. For me, he will be one of the best left-backs in India soon,” said Marquez. It was big praise for the then 18-year-old, who was a relative unknown. But over the course of the season, Mishra has justified his coach’s words.

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On current form, no player in the position is better than Mishra, who has played every single minute of the ISL 2020-21 season. The Uttar Pradesh-born footballer is ranked second for tackles (80) for defenders, is second for interceptions (55) and has effected 48 clearances and 37 blocks.

Hyderabad FC Left-back Akash Mishra was an ever-present fixture and a consistent performer in what was his first season in the ISL. ISL/Sportzpics

 

Mishra is technically sound on the ball, has excellent positional sense and has the ability to dribble – which make him tick all the right boxes for a modern-day full-back. His reading of the game was highlighted in the 1-1 draw against Odisha FC when he made multiple goal-line clearances to save the game for his side.

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One of the lasting images from a Hyderabad game was the galloping runs made by the gangly footballer from his own box into the final third or having his run halted by an opposition player hacking him down. The league’s best attackers have tried to take him on down the flanks, but Mishra has often come out top in the one-on-one duels.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on the ISL playoffs, he has earned a maiden national team call-up for the upcoming friendlies against Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

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Marquez reiterated his stance on Mishra in January when he said, “Akash will be the left-back in the national team. I don’t know when. He listens to his coaches. He has to improve. But I wish he becomes India’s left-back.”

The challenge will now be for the youngster to repeat the performances and continue to elevate his game to the next level.