The 31-year-old Malappuram-born centre-back had played for clubs outside Kerala throughout his professional career. In the Indian Super League, he spent two seasons at Delhi Dynamos before Jamshedpur FC picked him up from the player draft last season.
He made eight appearances for the Men of Steel and under Steve Coppell and was part of an impressive defensive outfit. However, injuries denied him regular first-team opportunities at Jamshedpur FC. Subsequently, Kerala Blasters came up with an offer at the end of the season.
The chance to play in front of a 'home' crowd was too tempting for Anas. And for Kerala Blasters, they were getting an experienced defender who plays alongside skipper Sandesh Jhingan for the Indian national team.
The move made sense for both parties and the support for Anas in Kerala has only increased. While Blasters will be hoping that he remains injury-free and can perform to his full potential this season, any output or judgement will have to wait till the fourth match.
This is because Anas is set to serve a three-match ban he received in April this year. A half-time scuffle in the tunnel during the Super Cup match between Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa resulted in three players from each team getting punished with a red card. They were retrospectively banned by the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) disciplinary committee. In addition to the ban, Anas was one of the two players from the list to be fined INR 1 Lakh for violent conduct.
Jamshedpur went on to suffer a 0-5 defeat in what would be their final match of the season. This meant that the defender's ban would carry on to the next season.
Anas is a first-team recruitment for the Kerala-based side and has already established a defensive partnership with Sandesh Jhingan for the national team. His composure at the back will be vital for James' team this season and his importance was highlighted in the pre-season against Melbourne City and Girona FC despite heavy defeats in both the games.
The freedom to field an all-Indian defence allows David James to utilize foreign players further up the field. But Anas' absence will force the head coach to utilize either of or both Cyril Kali and Nemanja-Lakic-Pesic at the back.
Both the foreign defenders are primarily centre-backs who can slot in as full-backs as well. With Lalruatthara and Sandesh Jhingan set to start, the other two-spots of the four-man defence has to be filled by two of Lakic-Pesic, Cyril Kali, Mohammed Rakip, Abdul Hakku and Pritam Kumar.
Of the Indian defenders in the squad, Pritam has only 51 minutes in his kitty in ISL. Mohammad Rakip is yet to make his debut and Abdul Hakku played just four games for NorthEast United last season.
Anas Edathodika's absence will be felt at the start of the season but James will have to utilize his squad to the fullest to cope with it and prevent a leaky defence. The last thing Blasters will want is a poor start to the season, considering it is what spelt the end of Rene Meulensteen and caused Blasters to lag behind in the previous campaign.