Indian players are often seen as getting backdropped in the action because of the late entry in the national team. One player who is feeling that it took him longer than expected to debut for India is the left-arm pacer, Khaleel Ahmed.
Part of the Under-19 World Cup squad in 2016, Ahmed has to wait more than two years to get his berth in the Indian squad. In those long waiting years he was part of the Delhi Daredevils team but he never got a chance to play. His woes never ended even in his state team of Rajasthan where was not a top preference.
His break came during the 2017-18 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in which Khaleel gave an extremely disciplined performance and took 17 wickets with an economy rate of 6.76. This led to his inclusion the in India’s Asia Cup squad this September.
In an interview, Khaleel said, “If I had not played for India now, then it would have been very late. I fear at an older age, my body wouldn’t have been able to exert as much as I can now. I couldn’t sleep during the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. I would check the clock all night and waited to get back on the field, bowling fast and taking wickets. I couldn’t let this opportunity go as I did in Ranji Trophy.”
Talking about his bowling idol Zaheer Khan, Khaleel revealed his biggest inspiration was to watch Khan bowling in the nets. Khaleel said, “I worked on my bowling. I went to the NCA but there were no specialist bowling coaches. I had chats with Zaheer Khan at Daredevils but felt I shouldn’t be calling all the time. I observed him in the nets and tried to copy things in my hometown.”
Since his debut in the national team, Khaleel has shown his caliber by taking wickets for India in the Asia Cup as well as in the ODI series against West Indies. His fabulous spell in the last two ODIs (3 for 13 and 2 for 29) he has shown that he has the potential to be the next premier left-arm seamer for India.
He got pieces of advice from many veterans that include Pakistan Express Shoaib Akhtar who hinted him to reduce his jump. Khaleel said, “I did reduce my jump earlier to get the ball swinging into the batsman. But Bharat Arun (India bowling coach) doesn’t force me to do things. He only works on those things which would suit my physique and ability. I am happy with that. I figured I had to increase my body mass to bowl consistently at pace.