Steve Coppell one of six new managers at ISL football tournament this season

In our weekly 'Eye on India' segment, Dileep Premachandran talks about the Indian Super League and the ongoing Test series against New Zealand.

Steve Coppell has not been active in English football for years. Peter Ford / Action Images
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Ten years ago, Steve Coppell won the Championship with Reading. Their tally of 106 points was a record, and he was a near-unanimous choice for the League Managers Association (LMA) Manager of the Year award.

The following season, after Reading finished eighth in the Premier League, just a point off qualifying for the Uefa Cup, he retained it.

He was just 52 then, but having started his career in management at Crystal Palace in 1984, when just 29, the passion appeared to be ebbing away.

Reading were relegated in their second season in the top flight, and when they failed to be promoted at the first time of asking, Coppell resigned.

A stint at Bristol City in 2010 lasted just three months, and his only jobs in football since have been as Director of Football at Crawley Town and then Portsmouth.

On Saturday, Coppell, something of a forgotten man in English football, embarked on a new adventure, as his Kerala Blasters team took on NorthEast United in the opening match of the third season of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Under the stewardship of David James, the former Liverpool goalkeeper, the Sachin Tendulkar-owned Blasters had finished runners-up in the inaugural ISL, losing the trophy only in injury time. But with Terry Phelan in charge, the second season was a shocker, and they finished rock bottom.

It is indicative of the ephemeral nature of the ISL that as many as six of the eight teams have new managers at the helm for this season.

Only Zico at FC Goa, where Virat Kohli has a stake, and Marco Materazzi, who led Chennaiyin FC to the title last season, have kept their jobs.

As one might expect with Zico in charge, Goa have a sizeable Brazilian contingent, led by their marquee player, Lucio.

Capped 105 times by Brazil, and a star of the 2002 World Cup win, his organisational skills in defence will once again be central to their chances.

Chennaiyin can no longer call on the services of Elano, who has returned to Santos, and Stiven Mendoza, the Colombian who is now with New York City FC.

Their marquee player is John Arne Riise, whose finest hour, a left-footed thunderbolt against Manchester United at Anfield for Liverpool, came nearly 15 years ago.

NorthEast United will be able to bank on passionate support and the nous of Didier Zokora, who had spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla in a storied career that encompassed more than 100 caps for Ivory Coast. Delhi Dynamos have Florent Malouda, once of Chelsea, and Pune City, who fired David Platt, will now be managed by Antonio Lopez Habas, who managed Atletico de Kolkata to the trophy in the first year.

The Kolkata side have now appointed Jose Francisco Molina, the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper, and former Tottenham striker and Portugal international is Helder Postiga.

As far as the glamour quotient goes though, no team can match Mumbai City, managed by Alexandre Guimaraes, who played for Costa Rica at the 1990 World Cup before guiding them on the world stage in both 2002 and 2006.

Fans in the UAE will remember him for his success with Al Wasl.

Kohli needs to have rethink on how to bat in India

Much has been made of the fact that Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting average at home is nearly twice what it is away.

Such discrepancies are not exactly uncommon. Michael Clarke, Mahela Jayawardene and Matthew Hayden were three greats who enjoyed home comforts far more than they did away challenges.

But Pujara’s captain seems to have the opposite problem. Virat Kohli’s scores against New Zealand have been 9, 18 and 9. He has miscued a pull, top-edged a sweep and steered a very wide delivery to the point fielder.

At this stage of his career, his away average (44.61) is better than the home one (42.11). He has also made nine of his 12 centuries away from home.

In fact, you have to go back to Chennai in February 2013 for Kohli’s last home hundred. India have played only 10 home games between that Test and the continuing one at Eden Gardens, but in that time, Kohli has tallied just three half-centuries.

The pitches against South Africa last season were quite difficult for batting, but it is hard to escape the feeling that Kohli will have to recalibrate his methods a little on low, slow pitches at home – Eden Gardens offered appreciable bounce on the first morning.

He loves the ball coming on to the bat, as evidenced by his outstanding record in Australia. When the runs have to be eked out, he has not always succeeded. Driving away from the body has been a problem, and he has perished to both pace and spin.

With India dominating the series so far – and Pujara’s solidity has been a big factor in that – there is not really any undue pressure on Kohli.

But if the failures mount, with England and Australia the visitors later in the season, the nitpicking will begin in earnest.

A word with Rahul Dravid, a former teammate who also enjoyed overseas conditions more, would not go amiss. It took him three years to score his first century at home, and it was only much later in his career that he batted with the fluency he showed in England and elsewhere.

With 11 home Tests remaining this season, Kohli is hardly on the cusp of a crisis, but such is his urge to excel that you can see how the barren run is beginning to affect him.

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