Shillong: Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia`s predatory skills in the 18-yard box is known to one and all.
But as they say that someone who has talent can slip into any role with ease, the 35-year-old Indian captain played as a central defender during United Sikkim`s 1-1 draw against Sporting Clube de Goa in a final phase match of the second division I-League at the JN Stadium.
For academic interest, it was Clube who got an early lead with their Nigerian defender Daniel Bidemi scoring in the 27th minute. Bengaicho Beokokhei levelled the proceedings seven minutes later.
The centre of attraction on the day was the veteran skipper who didn`t make too many mistakes in a role that is so not-so-familiar with the fans. His effort was all the more laudable as playing in a position as important as stopper back and that too in a competitive match.
Essaying unfamiliar role is not new to Bhaichung. Back in late 1990`s, he was seen goalkeeping in an international match against Malaysia after the regular `keeper received marching orders.
"I`m comfortable in my new role as a defender," Bhaichung who played for 80 minutes said after the match.
The fierce competitor that he is, he didn`t forget to mention that he kept two foreign strikers in the opposition quiet.
"I need to reach peak fitness at the earliest. And I didn`t do badly either. I was able to keep the two rival foreign strikers quiet," Bhaichung boasted.
But he received the best compliments from India international N S Manju who partnered Bhaichung at the heart of defence.
"It`s quite exciting to play with Bhaichung and mind you, he has a great sense of anticipation," Manju said.
United Sikkim coach Stanley Rozario also lauded Bhutia`s effort.
"He needs to be applauded. After playing as a striker for more than 17 years in the top tier, the manner in which he played like a matured defender deserves praise."