"To all those who pulled on the India shirt for the first time in your lives, build on the moment and the memory. Turn back to it when you need that extra bit of motivation. Congratulations lads - Suresh, Akash, Bipin, Jeakson, Ashutosh, Yasir, Ishan, Sana, Apuia and Mashoor."
This was Sunil Chhetri's message after India's clash against Oman in an international friendly at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium where head coach Igor Stimac named as many as six debutants in the starting line-up and then introduced four more as substitutes in the second half.
Given that it was a friendly and an intense Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season had just concluded, it made sense to give opportunities to youngsters who impressed for their respective clubs. And as such, Bengaluru FC's Suresh Singh Wangjam, Hyderabad FC's Akash Mishra and Chinglensana Singh, Mumbai City FC's Bipin Singh, Kerala Blasters' Jeakson Singh and NorthEast United FC's Ashutosh Mehta found their names on the start list.
Later on, in the second half, NorthEast's Apuia, who became ISL's emerging player of the year, Ishan Pandita, Md. Yasir and Mashoor Shereef also made their debut appearances for the Blue Tigers.
But just how well did these young players perform in national colours? Let's have a look:
Ashutosh Mehta: 7.5/10
One of the better players for India, ran up and down the right flank all day, pressed high and was the one who won the ball and kickstarted the move that saw Manvir Singh equalise in the second half.
Chinglensana Singh: 6.5/10
Was unfortunate to have an own-goal against his name, could not have done much there honestly after Amrinder Singh fumbled to collect the ball. Otherwise, he was disciplined and formed a good partnership with Sandesh Jhingan in central defence.
Mashoor Shereef: 5/10
Came out in the dying moments of the game, no time to make any impact whatsoever. But did well to see off the remaining time and help India secure a draw.
Akash Mishra: 6/10
Impressed down the left channel, held his own against Oman's right winger and right back and defended resolutely.
Suresh Singh Wangjam: 7/10
After being one of the most consistent performers for Bengaluru FC, the youngster put up a bright performance in national colours. He was the lynchpin in midfield, responsible for thwarting Oman's forays down the centre and also for starting India's attacks.
Jeakson Singh: 4/10
Did not have the best of outings, barely saw the ball during his stay on the pitch and looked out of place.
Quite easily, India's best performer of the night. He came on in the second half, was fearless and turned the game on its heels. His performance bore an uncanny resemblance with his debut show for India U17 during the U17 World Cup in 2017.
Md. Yasir: 6.5/10
Played well and showed promise, strung together quite a few good passes and was the link between midfield and attack in the second half.
Bipin Singh: 7/10
Days after scoring the winner in ISL final, he made his debut for India but Stimac put him on the right flank instead of his usually preferred left flank. Still, managed to cause a few problems with his speed, heavy pressing and trickery and delivered a peach of a cross for Manvir to equalise.
Ishan Pandita: 5/10
Was brought on late and could not really impact the proceedings but he did well to press high up the pitch and forced Oman's defenders to make a couple of quick clearances.