As India turns 70, we celebrate Eight For Eighty - the eight sportspersons who we feel will carry the torch for the next decade.
The story so far
"He's a kid but plays like a man."
This was Chennaiyin FC head coach Marco Materazzi's assessment of the then 18-year-old left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala, who they picked up from the AIFF Elite Academy.
By the middle of the 2016 ISL season, Jerry was one of the first names on Materazzi's team sheet. Darting down the left with pace, Jerry showed maturity in attack and consistency while defending. "He has a great left foot and is very comfortable on the ball," Chennaiyin's assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha noted.
In fact, Jerry's performances bagged him the ISL Emerging Player of the Year award in his first professional season. Soon after, I-League side DSK Shivajians picked him up on loan in 2017, and Jerry continued his prolific run of form by picking up another award, being named the best Emerging Player of the League.
A month after the I-League season ended, Jerry made his international debut against Nepal. Unsurprisingly, Chennaiyin wasted no time in retaining Jerry for the upcoming ISL season.
Form and fitness permitting, Jerry is on course to becoming the first-choice left-back for club and country for several years.
For club, Materazzi showed confidence in him, starting him in 11 of Chennaiyin's 14 games in 2016 and preferring him over the experience of Nallapan Mohanraj even after Jerry conceded a penalty in his first ISL game. This season though, Chennaiyin have a new coach in John Gregory and it remains to be seen if Jerry will be afforded as many opportunities.
For country, he is in direct competition with Stephen Constantine's preferred left-back Narayan Das, who Jerry replaced on his international debut. Das is only 23, but his recent performances have not been spectacular, giving Jerry a window of opportunity to make that spot his own. Considering his maturity and game understanding, Jerry has every chance of doing that soon.
"I have great consideration for Jerry because during training sessions he works hard, he fights, so he deserved it." - Marco Materazzi