New Delhi: Igor Stimac announced India's 26-member for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman, as Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem received his first senior Indian football team call-up.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup star currently plies his trade for Indian Super League side ATK even though he has not made a single appearance for the Kolkata-based franchise yet.
"Dheeraj is a player for the future. We have always trusted our youngsters and they have also shown their prowess on the pitch. Our first choice goalkeepers are Gurpreet and Amrinder and we have seen Kamaljit and Vishal too. Now we would like to see Dheeraj closely as he belongs to those we should rely on in the future," coach Stimac said in an All India Football Federation (AIFF) statement.
The other two keepers in the side are Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Amrinder Singh, who will be eyeing the former's place in the starting xi after some good performances in the ongoing ISL.
Rahul Bheke will face stiff competition from Pritam Kotal for the right-back position, with Adil Khan and Anas Edathodika being primed to retain their partnership in the middle.
Midfielders like Pronay Halder, Seiminlen Doungel, Jackichand Singh have been added to the squad following some stellar ISL performances.
Sunil Chhetri is joined in attack by Manvir Singh and Farukh Choudhary.
Incidentally, two back-to-back away fixtures are always something which is "not going to be easy with the travelling involved".
"It's not going to be easy with the travelling involved. But, we are professionals and we know how to take care of our bodies. How we travel, what we eat, how much we sleep is going to be very important," Chhetri sounded cautious ahead of the two pivotal matches in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Stimac mentioned it was "not an easy task" to shortlist the players "given the healthy competition" in the team.
"I trust them and they know their responsibilities. After watching the league matches since they started, we have shortlisted these players. Some players who are not on the list also performed highly and came very close to getting selected," Stimac continued. "It's not going to be an easy task to select only a few players, given the healthy competition we have in each position. This is a good headache for us."
The likes of Kamaljit Singh (goalkeeper), Sandesh Jhingan (defender), Nikhil Poojary (midfielder), Halicharan Narzary (midfielder) and Balwant Singh (forward) are missing from the previous squad.
India to play back-to-back away games against Afghanistan and Oman on November 14 and 19 respectively.
India are fourth in Group E with two points, having lost their opening match to Oman 1-2 and then drawing against Qatar (0-0) and Bangladesh (1-1).
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Anas Edathodika, Narender, Adil Khan, Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Jackichand Singh, Seiminlen Doungel, Raynier Fernandes, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul Samad, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Brandon Fernandes, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh, Farukh Choudhary