India have found the next Zaheer Khan in Khaleel Ahmed: Karsan Ghavri
Khaleel Ahmed impressed during India's ODI series against West Indies. (Image: BCCI)

Aggression, guile and raw pace coupled with variety has made Khaleel Ahmed tick all the right boxes required for a genuine fast bowler. Ever since India sprung a surprise by introducing the prodigious left-arm pacer from the small town of Tonk in Rajasthan at the Asia Cup this year, Khaleel has shown good promise.

In the Asia Cup this year, Khaleel snapped three wickets in his debut ODI against Hong Kong and added one more against Afghanistan in the Super Four stage. In six ODIs – two in the Asia Cup and four versus West Indies – he has claimed 11 wickets, while in the recently-concluded T20Is against the 20-year-old took three wickets.

Being fast-tracked into the senior Indian side after impressing in white-ball cricket for India A speaks of Khaleel’s skill, believes former India left-arm pace bowler Karsan Ghavri.

“Khaleel Ahmed is a bright prospect for India. He’s got good control of his line, length and has good accuracy. He’s been able to swing the ball with that kind of speed which is very important because pace is not everything. If Khaleel can generate speed and swing consistently, he’s even more dangerous,” Ghavri told CricketCountry. “He has got the ability to swing the ball both ways – the in-swinger, out-swinger – and he’s got a good bouncer and generates good speed. He’s a very versatile bowler and can do well for India provided he looks after his body and stays away from injuries.”

Khaleel Ahmed appeals for a wicket during the recent serie
Khaleel Ahmed appeals for a wicket during the recent series. (Image: PTI)

India have been on the lookout for a genuine left-arm quick ever since Zaheer Khan retired in 2012. There have been a fe who have auditioned for the role – the likes of Saurashtra’s Jaydev Unadkat and Punjab’s Barinder Sran, mainly – but none could impress the way Khaleel has since since he marked his run-up in Dubai.

With the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup next year, Khaleel looks to have entered the big stage at the right time and with his strong showing in the sub-continent, he looks an asset for next summer’s showpiece event in England.

Ghavri, who bagged 109 wickets in 39 Tests, reckons India have found the next Zaheer. “Yes, to a certain extent. Zaheer Khan was a very good fast bowler for India. If somebody has taken more than 200 wickets [Zaheer took 282 wickets in 200 ODIs], he has to be good. After a long time after Zaheer Khan, India has found another good left-handed fast bowler,” the 67-year-old said.

Khaleel’s next assignment is the series against Australia where he has been named in the T20I squad. Ghavri feels the move will not help the bowler flourish.

“The T20 format is a totally different format altogether because the bowlers or the batsmen hardly get any time to settle down. For Khaleel, the real format for him is Test cricket or may be, even a 50-over game because there, you have a good chance of settling down,” he said.

“In a T20 match, you just bowl four overs and hardly get time to settle down. If he gets himself in for a 50-over match or in Tests, it will be better for him. I am sure he will eventually get that spot, but he should be playing in the longer version of the game. Khaleel should have been named in the ODI squad and Test squad, rather than the T20I series. The team management should watch Khaleel perform in the 50-over game and if his performances are good, then automatically he graduates to Test cricket.”