Over a year ago, it was all going right for Debjit Majumder. The then Atletico de Kolkata shot-stopper saved Cedric Hengbart's penultimate spot-kick in the penalty shootout to decide the outcome of the 2016 Indian Super League (ISL). Jewel Raja would convert the last penalty to give the Kolkata side their second title in three years.
Debjit’s season was not done yet. He would go back to parent club Mohun Bagan in the I-League and would keep eight clean sheets, in the process forming the core of the best defence in the division with only 12 goals conceded in 18 matches.
Though Aizawl FC would romp home to fairytale maiden title, Debjit’s efforts saw him being awarded as the ‘Goalkeeper of the League’ for the second time in three years. He had previously won the accolade in 2014-15, helping the Kolkata giants to their first I-League title in 13 years.
The 29-year-old was also a crucial component in the Mohun Bagan side which lifted the Federation Cup title in 2015-16. It came as no surprise then Debjit was one of the two players retained at ATK ahead of the players’ draft. The Hindmotor-born man had after all been one of the trusted lieutenants of Jose Molina’s championship winning squad.
Such had been Debjit’s immense contributions to Mohun Bagan in his three years at the club that they were allegedly even prepared to match the salary offered by his ISL outfit at the start of the season. A few months later, things haven’t gone exactly to plan for neither the goalkeeper nor his employers.
The defending champions find themselves languishing in the lowly seventh position of the table with 13 points from their 14 games, all but out of contention for the play-off spots. While ATK’s frailties have been for all to see after a dismal campaign which has resulted in the sacking of Teddy Sheringham, it has not been a kind one for Debjit personally either.
In a year where the performances of Indian goalkeepers in the ISL has come under the scanner, the ATK custodian is one of several who have been found wanting. A man who was undoubtedly one of the best Indian goalkeepers between 2014 and 2017, has seen his stock take a huge beating after a season riddled with blunders and howlers.
While Debjit has always been an excellent shot-spotter, it has been his handling of the ball which has been error-prone over the years. That seemed to be dwindling from his game over the past three years as he emerged as a consistent and reliable performer. However, the new season has seen those deficiencies rear their ugly head once again, and there was no better demonstration of that than during ATK’s 1-2 defeat against Chennaiyin FC towards the end of January.
After the Kolkata side had taken the lead, Mailson Alves secured the equalizer for Chennaiyin through a feeble header that should have been saved by Debjit. If that was not enough, the home side’s second of the night was 100 per cent down to a goalkeeping gaffe. Debjit made a complete hash of the simplest of crosses, allowing Jeje Lalpekhua to score one of the easiest goals he will probably score in his career.
If those errors came in isolation, there could still be a defence for the ATK man. Unfortunately, it has been a season strewed with such blunders and as such, there is no hiding place. Costly mistakes which have led to goals conceded have also come against FC Pune City while he just about got away with it against Jamshedpur FC.
Not blessed in the height department, rushing out for crosses has never been Debjit’s forte and the fact that he has only successfully claimed three such high balls in the box is a testament to this. In comparison, Pune’s Vishal Kaith has claimed 20 while Gurpreet Singh Sandhu of Bengaluru has claimed 17.
Last season, he enjoyed the luxury of having a strong back four in front of him with Henrique Sereno and Tiri being pillars in the defence for the Kolkata side. This season, he has had to make do with Tom Thorpe, Jordi Figueras and Ashutosh Mehta for the most part. The result has been a shakier defence with an even shakier custodian. Consistency has evaded Debjit all season and an even greater self-doubt seems have to have taken over his persona.
Gone is the assured self which was on display in recent years with the mistake-prone side to him coming out to the fore. The goalkeeper, it seems, has had his confidence chipped away with each passing blunder and is now a shell of the confident No.1 he was last season. Only the likes of Laxmikant Kattimani of Goa and TP Rehenesh have been worse than Debjit in the current campaign.
With just four games to go, there is not much ATK can do to impact the points table, but for Debjit, it represents a chance to regain at least some of the solidity he displayed previously. His stock lies at an all-time low, and he desperately needs to prove himself once again or one fears that the Kolkata side will have a different goalkeeper in mind when they make preparations for the next season. It must be noted that Majumder is on a multi-year contract with the Kolkata franchise.