Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri on Monday said that the team can put up good performances even in his absence under head coach Igor Stimac. The 35-year-old striker is currently India’s highest goalscorer and has been The Blue Tigers’ talisman for quite some years now, but it’s something that the Indian skipper prefers to downplay.
“The Indian team doesn’t need Sunil Chhetri to put up a good performance. I am just one of the 23 players in the team. I’m a little bit lucky and a little bit more experienced. I’m not trying to be cliche, it’s a fact,” he said at the pre-match press conference ahead of India’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers clash against Bangladesh.
Chhetri didn’t feature in the playing eleven when India held Qatar to a goalless draw away from home last month and stated that there was enough depth in the squad to replace him.
“It was because of my absence that they played so well in the Qatar game. That’s what the players keep reminding me.” he joked.
“This is one of the good changes we have in our team now. The importance on who is going to play is so less and the importance on the team is so high under him [Stimac]. Whoever does well in training will play. Sometimes he defies what I think. He has come with no prejudice in this country. He doesn’t know what you have done in the past. That is the reason we have done so well against Qatar. The coach keeps you on your toes as whoever does well in training will play in the game and that is a very good message for the boys,” he added.
However, Bangladesh coach Jamie Day identified Chhetri as a major threat to his side on Tuesday, but the Indian isn’t too worried about the heavy marking that he may be subjected to at the Salt Lake stadium on Tuesday.
“If three people mark me, even four, we’ll be happy. If that happens then people will come to know about other players. It is not about me, it’s about India vs Bangladesh. It’ll be 10 vs 6, and we’ll get a numerical advantage. You need to understand that it’s not only about me. We have a very talented team and players who are in better shape than me. Manvir (Singh), Balwant (Singh), Sahal (Samad), Brandon (Fernandes) and Ashqiue (Kuruniyan). You will see them tomorrow,” he stressed.
India, who lost to Oman 1-2 in their campaign opener before holding Qatar to a draw in Doha, currently are at fourth place in the five-team table with one point from two matches.