2nd T20: Khaleel Ahmed relishing operating with new ball
India fast bowler Khaleel Ahmed. (AFP Image)

Young Khaleel Ahmed was impressive yet again as India successfully defended a total of 195 against the West Indies by 71 runs to seal the series 2-0 at Lucknow’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium. Defending the target, Khaleel opened the bowling for India and picked two wickets upfront of the two most in-from West Indies batsmen – openers Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer.

Khaleel, who finished with economical figures of 1 for 16 in the first T20, returned figures of 2 for 30 in the second. During the post-match presentation ceremony, captain Rohit Sharma, who struck a fourth T20I century, had said that Khaleel’s ability to swing the Kookaburra ball gives India the option of operating Jasprit Bumrah differently. In fact, Khaleel himself had asked to open to bowling from his skipper on Tuesday.

“I enjoy the responsibility. When I was young I always dreamt of playing for India. Since I have achieved that, If I feel pressure, I can’t perform to my potential. My only aim is to do well for India and for that I need to enjoy my game. If you enjoy your game, the hunger to do well increases,” Khaleel said during the post-match conference.

As India piled up a total of 195, Khaleel provided them a wonderful start. In the second over, Khaleel dismissed Hope out caught and bowled and had Hetmyer four overs later for his second wicket. As Lucknow’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium hosted its debut international, Khaleel pointed out that the pitch didn’t have much for the bowlers and that landing early strikes was the key in defending the target.

“The pitch had nothing for the bowlers. It was a batting friendly wicket. Our effort was not to give them much room and maintain good line and length. After getting the wickets of Hetmyer and Shai Hope, we thought the match was in our control to some extent,” Khaleel said.

Despite not possessing much IPL experience, the 20-year-old credited his stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad for shaping him as a T20 bowler. He played just one match for Sunrisers earlier during this year’s IPL and went wicketless. However, he has spent a considerable amount of time with Delhi Daredevils under mentor Zaheer Khan, something Khaleel has always cherished.

“The experience of playing the IPL becomes important here. You’ve already performed against these players so there is no pressure of bowling to them for the Indian team. The dressing room is shared and there is no much learn from these players. You basically understand to fine tune things accordingly,” he said.