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  Sports   Football  15 Jan 2017  Stop left, right Stay central

Stop left, right Stay central

Published : Jan 15, 2017, 12:56 am IST
Updated : Jan 15, 2017, 7:38 am IST

Versatility defines Sandesh Jhingan, yet it has also been the defender’s Achilles heel.

Sandesh Jhingan
 Sandesh Jhingan

For any hotshot Indian footballer, joining Bengaluru FC seems to be the right career choice at the moment because the Blues are the country’s most successful club in recent times. Hence Sandesh Jhingan’s loan move, to the reigning I-League champions from Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, is a wise one.  

The Chandigarh-born defender, who is only 23, is already regarded indispensable in whichever team he’s played since making his senior professional debut as a teenager for United Sikkim. He’s also a mainstay in Stephen Constantine’s national side that he joined by default early 2015, shortly after a splendid ISL debut.

Versatility is what defines Jhingan as he’s capable of playing anywhere in the defensive half – centre-back or left and right full-back. Yet, this quality of his has proved an Achilles heel, making him more of a jack than a master in defense, because he’s not been able to stick down and develop in one specialist position.

While accepting Jhingan into the fold, Bengaluru head coach Albert Roca spelled out those dreaded words, again: “In Jhingan, we have signed a player who can turn out as a central defender and provide cover in full-back positions.”

There is a glut of defenders in world football who can play both full-back and centre-back with equal elan, when the managers ask them to do so. Paolo Maldini is a famous one, so is Sergio Ramos. César Azpilicueta and Aleksandar Kolarov are more recent examples. One might also want to remember Northern Irishman Aaron Hughes, who was Jhingan’s marquee teammate in Kerala this season.

Unlike the masters, and regardless of the difference in their level of football, Jhingan is not so comfortable on the ball. He’s more renowned for bravado; putting his body in the line of fire and throwing last-minute tackles are some of his peculiar skills. But his crossing and one-on-one play are a letdown as was evident from the recent ISL when the formidable pair of Cedric Hengbart and Hughes forced Jhingan play right-back for most part of the season, and he struggled.

If Spaniard Roca, who was a central defender during his playing days realises what’s better for the player and helps him discover his best position, it would be great for Indian football.

Tags: bengaluru fc, i-league, albert roca