A number of exceptionally talented youngsters have already made a mark in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season. Almost all the teams have had issues with injuries to their senior players and this has paved the way for them to show their mettle against experienced opposition. With the season almost at its halfway stage, we take a look at the top five local talents who have taken the ISL by storm.
Lalengmawia Ralte (NorthEast United)
The 20-year-old was one of the architects of NorthEast United’s unbeaten run up until the sixth Matchday. He is joint second on the list of most interceptions alongside teammate Khassa Camara with 21 and fourth on the list of most tackles with 34. The youngster also has 74% passing accuracy which shows his ability on the ball and as an ideal box-to-box midfielder. The best aspect of his game is that with the ball at his feet he always looks for a forward pass while without it, he is the first one to drop back in position and help out his defence. That is the reason why he has already become an indispensable asset for Gerard Nus.
Suresh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)
The all-energy Manipuri lad has made the midfield position his own in a strong Bengaluru side. Alongside Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado, he has become the destroyer in chief in the Blues’ midfield. He covers every blade of grass in most games and is always the first one to reach any loose ball situation. What he lacks in strength and stature, he makes up with heart and spirit as he does a little bit of everything to help out his teammates. Besides Ashique Kuruniyan, Suresh has been the most consistent performer for his side this ISL and at this point, is probably the first name on the team sheet.
Ninthoi Meetei (NorthEast United)
Another youngster who has impressed everyone with his understanding of the game and maturity this season is the young Ninthoi. Gerard Nus has seemingly given him the freedom to express himself down the right side of NorthEast’s midfield and the 19-year-old has grabbed it with both hands. Just like Lalengmawia, he also features in the list for top tacklers and interceptors in the league which is actually unheard of for a winger. His passing and off-the-ball movement have been brilliant so far but what has caught the eye the most is his ability to make defenders commit to a tackle before dribbling it past them.
Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC)
Another 19-year-old who has had a brilliant season so far is Akash Mishra. The former Indian Arrows player has come up by leaps and bounds and given a very good impression of himself against some experienced attacking units. Always assured on the ball, he seems to know just when to bomb forward and also has an eye for a shot. His crossing from the left has been top notch as well and for a young man in his first ISL season, the maturity he has shown amongst a young Hyderabad FC backline is indeed commendable.
Deepak Tangri (Chennaiyin FC)
The 21-year-old defensive midfielder has been one of the few bright spots for Chennaiyin FC so far this season. The Chandigarh Football Academy graduate has been ever-present for the Marina Machans this campaign, even more so after the injury to Anirudh Thapa. He is the perfect mix of a combative midfielder and someone who has the eye for a pass. With more than 80% passing accuracy, he is also someone who has grown in stature in the side, especially because he always wants the ball even in tight spaces. With Chennaiyin slowly looking like their actual self, his performances in the middle of the park will be key for their top 4 aspirations.