BY NISANTH V EASWAR Follow @Niktheblue94 on Twitter
When you are looking forward to a fixture that has been hyped up for a few months, you are not just interested in the overall outcome. There are key battles on the field that can really serve as an excitement pill for most football fanatics. When Bengaluru FC travel to Kochi to take on Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) game on New Year's Eve, the responsibility of keeping his team under control in order to execute their gameplan will be on the two captains - Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan.
Sunil Chhetri has been the torchbearer of Indian football for such a long time and that makes it difficult for us to pinpoint a successor. We are yet to figure out who will take his place once he decides to hang up his boots The 33-year-old has led from the front for both club and country, making him the most talked about Indian footballer around the world in a captivating career spanning more than 15 years.
The former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal forward joined the then I-League team Bengaluru FC in the summer of 2013 and helped them to a league title in the same season. He added one more league title to his trophy shelf and also secured two Federation Cup victories. Four trophies in four years? Not bad!
Sandesh Jhingan doesn't have to look elsewhere for role models, he has one right in front of him. The former Bengaluru FC loanee received the 'Best Indian player' award by FPAI (Football Players Association of India) in 2015 and has since risen in stature. Just like his national team skipper, Jhingan has been with Kerala Blasters right since their inception.
However, the 24-year-old hasn't managed to lead his team towards trophies. While responsibility for the lack of silverware cannot be shouldered by just a single player, the onus is on the star player to lead the troops from the front.
While Chhetri initiated the Viking clap when Bengaluru defeated Mumbai 2-0 earlier in the season, it was Sandesh Jhingan who was leading the pack as Manjappada roared into life after Kerala Blasters registered their first win of the season against NorthEast United.
Though now it's time for Jhingan to help his team win trophies in order to achieve legendary status as Chhetri has for Bengaluru.
During the game against Chennaiyin FC, everybody in the stadium at the Marina Arena knew that it wasn't a penalty when the ball struck Jhingan' upper arm in the 88th minute. The defender was seen trying to direct the referee's attention towards the TV screen but the result was a spot-kick to Kerala's rivals.
Rene Mihelic converted the chance and sent the Chennai crowd into delirium. The Kerala Blasters skipper, however, had no plans to give up.
Four minutes after the 90th minute, the former Bengaluru FC defender was seen at the other end of the field, crossing the ball to CK Vineeth for the equaliser and thus returning to Kerala as the hero and not the villain.
The torchbearer in blue and the stalwart in yellow will meet in Kochi in the Indian Super League on Sunday. It promises to be a mouth-watering clash for the lovers of Indian football.
Who are you rooting for - Chhetri or Jhingan?