Former India midfielder Renedy Singh believes skipper Sunil Chhetri will be the key to India’s Asian Cup football tournament campaign as he sets the best example in the current team.

“There are many players who have been doing well recently. But for me, Sunil sets the best example. He has done so well consistently over the past few years. He may not be growing younger, but most significantly, he’s not just there to support. He is there to lead by example,” Renedy was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.

Renedy, best remembered for his accurate crosses from the flanks and his dead ball exploits, also said that ace Sunil is at the stage of his career where he can take up that mantle.

“It’s good to see that Sunil has improved as a dead-ball player. Back in our days, he never used to take free kicks — it was either me or Steven Dias,” he recollected. “But then one fine day, he walked up to me and said, Renedy-bhai, you can’t take both free kicks and penalties. I want to chip in too,” Renedy smiled.

“So we decided that Sunil will take penalties, and we would continue taking the free kicks. But he didn’t stay content with the penalties. Rather, he improved himself as a free kick taker. In fact, he has scored from many free kicks since then,” Renedy stated.

“Just outside the box, Sunil has been deadly. A bit further down, I think (Anirudh) Thapa and Narayan Das are pretty good with the dead ball too,” said Renedy who was part of India’s AFC Asian Cup Doha 2011 campaign.

“You have the others around Sunil to support him – the likes of Gurpreet, Sandesh and Jeje are the senior players who should lead by example. Then the younger lot will also follow,” opined Renedy.

Renedy feels India’s first match against Thailand will set the tone.

“We have to go all-out against Thailand in the first match. Do not think about UAE, do not think about Bahrain. Just go after the result in the first game,” Renedy advised.

“Only after the match we can decide on the next course of action. If they can get a result against China, we should be able to do the same against Thailand,” he said.

“The Asian Cup is a huge platform and there’s always something to learn from these matches. Play your heart out because such opportunities don’t come each and every day,” he signed off.