Indian football head coach Igor Stimac has called defender Anas Edathodika out of his retirement to be included among 35 probables for next month's Intercontinental Cup in a clear move to address the team's woes in central defence.
In the recent King's Cup match against Curacao in Thailand, the Indian central defence messed up to concede three goals in the space of 18 minutes in the first half to lose the match 1-3, with Rahul Bheke being the main culprit.
Bheke was drafted in to pair with Sandesh Jhingan at the heart of the defence after the retirement of Anas, who had partnered with Jhingan earlier for two years.
The 35 probables will assemble at the Mumbai Football Arena from June 25 for the Intercontinental Cup preparatory camp.
The 32-year-old Anas, who announced his retirement from international football after the AFC Asian Cup in January, said he received a message from coach Stimac, after which he decided to come out of international retirement.
"Coach Stimac has shown faith in me, and it's my turn to repay him. The coach messaged me to join the upcoming camp. Honestly, I was taken aback. Later Venky bhai (assistant coach Venkatesh Shanmugam) shared all details, and I just can't wait to join the camp," Anas, who has played for Indian Super League sides Delhi Dynamos, Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters, said.
"The respect I earned while playing for the national team is something which has pushed me to challenge myself again," he was quoted as saying by the official website of the All India Football Federation.
The 35 probables will be pruned down further, most likely to 23, but Anas said he does not care whether he makes it to the final India team for the Intercontinental Cup or not.
- Chhetri to take one match at a time, says ‘don't have too many India games left’
- Glimpses 2019: Commercialisation, professionalism finally make their entry into Indian football
- FIFA WC Qualifier: Injury-time goal helps India hold Afghanistan to 1-1 draw
- FIFA WC Qualifier: Afghanistan take 1-0 lead against India at half-time
- Goalkeeper Dheeraj gets maiden call-up in Indian team for FIFA WC qualifiers
"At the moment, I am just focusing on the camp, and not thinking about making the cut in the team at all. Whatever comes my way, I'll accept it. I'm equally passionate, and focused like I was a year back. I'm ready to push myself more," he said.
"Every coach has a different philosophy, and see the game differently. We had some great results before, and now all the boys whom I have spoken to have lauded coach Stimac heavily."
In another good news, midfielder Ashique Kuruniyan, who made an impact during the Asian Cup but was later laid low due to an injury, has recovered and has been named among the probables.
Defenders Sarthak Golui and Narender Gehlot, and midfielders Mandar Rao Desai and Nikhil Poojary have also been called for the camp.
Stimac had called 35 players for the national camp prior to the King's Cup. Forward Sumeet Passi and midfielders Komal Thatal, Bikramjit Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh, Redeem Tlang and Nandha Kumar, as well as defender Narayan Das have not been named this time.
The Intercontinental Cup will be Stimac's second assignment since taking over as the head coach of the Blue Tigers.
Under Stimac's charge, India had finished third in the King's Cup after their first-ever away win over Thailand.
The Intercontinental Cup will be held at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad from July 7 to 19.
Defending champions India begin their campaign against Tajikistan on July 7. DPR Korea and Syria are the other two teams in the four-nation competition. Every team will play each other once, with the top two advancing to the final.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Vishal Kaith.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Anas Edathodika, Anwar Ali (Jr), Sarthak Golui, Subhasish Bose, Narender Gahlot.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Jackichand Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Raynier Fernandes, Pronay Halder, Rowllin Borges, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul, Amarjit Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Mandar Rao Desai, Ashique Kuruniyan, Nikhil Poojary, Michael Soosairaj.
Forwards: Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Jobby Justin, Farukh Choudhary, Manvir Singh.