The first half of this season’s Indian Super League (ISL) may not have thrown up as many Indian goalscorers as fans would have liked, but there’s cause for optimism in a number of other positions. While the emergence of defenders like Akash Mishra and Asish Rai as well as midfielders like Mohammed Yasir and Hitesh Sharma has been extremely heartening, one area where Indian football seems well-stocked for the future is the wide attacking positions. Today we take a look at the top five wingers who have made a positive impression this term.
Halicharan Narzary (Hyderabad FC)
The 26-year-old from Kokrajhar in Assam has been having the best season of his career. While his two goals and seven assists in 59 previous matches didn’t inspire much confidence coming into the new season, he has already tripled his goal tally, scoring four times in 12 games so far as proof of the all-round development of his game. Having turned out for four different teams in the last six seasons, Narzary has had a roadman career but under Maniel Marquez at Hyderabad, he finally seems to have found a coach who trusts his abilities. A key cog in the Nizams’ attack, he has been involved in most of the promising moves that his side have been able to stitch together and already has 25 shots at goal, the highest amongst Indian players. His disciplined approach, two-footedness and tireless running have helped Marquez enormously in navigating a tricky run of fixtures and coming through unscathed.
Ninthoinganba Meetei (NorthEast United)
Adjudged the most valuable player at the SAFF U-18 Championships in 2019, 19-year-old Ninthoi has been one of the success stories for NorthEast this season. He has featured in 11 games so far and although he doesn’t have any contributions, his energy and intelligence in tight spaces played a key role in the Highlanders’ impressive start to the campaign. With some of the senior players returning into the side from injuries, his game-time for the last five games has been limited to cameos off the bench. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he still is incredibly important for his side who have at times lacked imagination in the final third. That isn’t an issue with him though. He had a very high dribble success rate and a high number of successful take-ons in the first half of the season and is someone who always releases the ball at the right moment.
Liston Colaco (Hyderabad FC)
Probably the most talked about Indian player this term, Liston has shown everyone that he has it in him to be the difference maker. He moved to Hyderabad after finding minutes hard to come by at FC Goa and it now seems like the right decision after all. He already has a couple of goals and three assists this term and has been extremely decisive in the final third in crunch situations. However, in Manuel Marquez’s own words, this is the first season where he is playing regular football and he needs to put his head down and improve further. Be that as it may, Liston has all the attributes of a top winger and what makes him special is that he can slot in a number of different positions. The Goa lad has flourished in a system that allows him to express himself, although he has mostly come off the bench against the top sides.
Rahul KP (Kerala Blasters)
The 20-year-old from Thrissur, Kerala is another youngster to watch out for. Having played a bit-part role in the first few games, his performance against Bengaluru FC earlier in the season made everyone sit up and take notice. He has pace, skill and an inherent ability to glide past players which makes him a truly special talent. Having already notched up a couple of crucial goals, it is no coincidence that Blasters’ resurgence has overlapped with his starting games for the side. Going forward, he will invariably be one of Kibu Vicuna’s trump cards as they try to climb up the points table one game at a time.
Bipin Singh (Mumbai City)
With three assists and a goal so far, Bipin has been one of the few domestic players who is a sure-shot starter for Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City. His ability to stretch defences and spot open spaces has been instrumental in relieving pressure from his defenders. The 25-year-old also combines extremely well with the likes of Hugo Boumous and Adam Le Fondre in attack, making him almost indispensable in the current scheme of things. He is also one of those wingers who knows exactly where to put his pass so that the forwards can run on to it and take a first-time shot, something that was evident in the way he assisted Bart Ogbeche against Jamshedpur FC.