The job of the Indian national coach is a tough one.
Most of the players who comprise in the starting XIfor the Blue Tigers have been out of form in the I-League for their respective clubs, with the exceptions of Mehtab Hussain, Clifford Miranda and Lenny Rodrigues. Francis Fernandes added his name to the elite list by scoring twice in Salgaocar FC's win over Pune FC over the weekend.
While coach Wim Koevermans has included several new faces like Arata Izumi and CK Vineeth and recalled a few veterans like Sandip Nandy, a large chunk if of players either struggle to break into the starting XI of their respective clubs or have put in insipid displays this season.
The Dutchman assured that players who perform consistently over a period of time will be rewarded with a call-up to the national side however there may be a case for exceptions too.
"Good performance will always get rewarded and along with it, consistency. As I said, we have invited quite a few players who don’t play that often. But it doesn’t end there. We need to remember that they have the quality in themselves which makes them eligible to play at the highest level," said Koevermans.
"You need to find the right mix [between experience and youth]. I will never compromise on quality. If a young boy displays quality on the turf, he will get a chance for sure. And once you get it, you need to perform. The same theory implies for everyone.
The good news for players performing in the I-League is that the coach is open to bringing in some more new faces into the side for the camp in Pune later in February for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
"We just can't break the dynamics of the team especially after the foundation which we laid in the Nehru Cup. We need to sustain that. But in the I-League we have watched a lot of players to cover some positions. I may bring in some new faces in the Pune Camp if needed," he said.
On being asked over the importance of the friendly against the West Asian side, Koevermans believes it gives him an option to have a look at players and thereby determine the form of each one.
"It's an opportunity to see players and gauge their present form. At the same time, there are a few players who don't play that often [in the I-League] and I intend to have a close look at them too. Hence, the friendly will help me make my choices. It's an important test for some players, a very important one.
"Obviously prior to the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, we will have a training camp in Pune where we will spend over two weeks on the training pitch."
Palestine are ranked 14 places above India at 152 and Koevermans said fixture will hand them an opportunity to improve upon their standings.
"Every game is important for the national team. We want to gain as much experience as possible and improve ourselves at the same time. Unless you improve, you won’t step up the ladder in Fifa rankings," he said.
Of their opponents, Koevermans stated that he has a fair idea of their strengths and the going would certainly not be easy for the Blue Tigers.
"I have watched videos of them and that has given me a good idea about their team. They are a very strong side. In December 2012, they had played the West Asia Cup where they beat Lebanon and went down narrowly to Oman and Kuwait by an identical 1-2 margin. Some of their players even play in tough competitive leagues outside Palestine," he said.