Kolkata, June 8 : Former India defender and Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharyya on Monday said one of the first things he saw in Sunil Chhetri was his desire to learn.
India football captain Chhetri is on the verge of adding another feather to his already illustrious cap as he is set to complete 15 years on the international arena on June 12.
"When you are assessing young footballers -- perhaps once in a lifetime, a player would come along to lift your heart. I probably did not feel that way that morning. But what I did see were two teenagers who showed hints of promise, and loads of desire, and ambition. Those two kids were Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Paul.
"With regards to Sunil, he did show traits that could make him a top striker. He had good pace, and his shooting was more than decent. What really struck me was the desire he showed. At first sight, from the perspective of a tall defender like myself, his diminutive figure did not evoke any thoughts that he would be able to get on the goal," Bhattacharyya, Chhetri's father-in-law, told www.the-aiff.com in a first person account.
"But he showed an excellent reading of the game. He constantly made runs off the ball, barking at his teammates to pass the ball to him. He was just five-foot-seven, but whenever there was a set-piece, he'd stick himself right into the towering defenders. That really showed the most important thing a coach looks for in a player -- hunger," said Bhattacharyya who saw Chhetri during his formative years at Mohun Bagan.
Bhattacharyya, whose daughter Sonam is married to record goalscorer Chhetri, said the Bengaluru FC striker lacked in his dribbling abilities.
"There was one area, though, where he was lacking was his dribbling abilities. He was perhaps never really a great dribbler.
"However, football is not a sport where you sit and brood about your shortcomings. It is a dynamic game where you need to come up with solutions with regards to how to overcome those shortcomings. And over the years, Sunil has done it majestically.
"To overcome his dribbling deficiencies, he worked extensively on his dodges, which has added the extra dimension to his game. It is this attitude towards the game that has helped him achieve this one step that perhaps became a leap in the long run," said Bhattacharyya.
"Once he sets his mind on improving a certain aspect of his game, he would keep going at it till he mastered the craft."