Bhaichung Bhutia says top strikers have a 'sixth sense'

Bhutia, the former Indian football captain from Sikkim, had 104 caps for India and scored 40 international goals for the country.

By Subhayan Dutta

A knack... a hunch... an intuition: call it what you like; but for former Indian football captain and forward Bhaichung Bhutia, it's something a striker needs to have.

Popularly known as the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’, Bhaichung Bhutia was the first Indian footballer to reach 100 caps when he represented the nation during the 2009 Nehru Cup.

Bhutia, who scored 40 goals in 104 matches for India, says that he always relied on his instincts to find the target and that should be the quintessential element in a striker's arsenal.

“It’s all about that sixth sense,” Bhaichung Bhutia told the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

“You need to smell it as to where the ball would come. The best strikers in the world all have that sense.

“You need to read situations. Unless you develop your sixth sense, you won't be a successful striker,” the former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan forward added.

Anticipation the key

Debuting as a 19-year-old for Kolkata giants East Bengal, Bhaichung Bhutia has been a popular figure for their arch-rivals, Mohun Bagan, as well.

Though Bhutia has played for JCT Mills, Manchester-based side Bury FC, Malaysia’s Perak FA and many other clubs, it was his stint with East Bengal that is fondly remembered.

In 97 games for East Bengal, Bhaichung Bhutia netted 52 goals and scored 25 times for Mohun Bagan in 56 games. He credits his success to his anticipatory runs through the middle that was timed to perfection to break the offside trap.

Bhaichung Bhutia believes intuition, anticipation and patience are elements every striker should have

“Those runs are extremely critical for a striker,” Bhaichung Bhutia said. “I used to keep telling Sunil Chhetri that you need to anticipate and make runs from where you can score.

“If you go wide, you have to dribble and get past the defender, and by the time you turn and get past him, others will also rush in to block you,” added Bhutia, who started as an attacking midfielder before former Indian football coach Rustam Akramov promoted him to the striker’s role.

Along with persistence, according to Bhutia, patience was important as well.

“If you look at Ronaldo and Messi, it’s not always that they dribble past 3-4 defenders. Rather, all big strikers wait for the ball and then touch it,” he pointed out. 

“At the end, it’s all about developing that sense, and I repeat unless you keep on making those runs you will never develop that sense,” Bhutia reckoned.