My left-arm pace can be beneficial for the team: Khaleel Ahmed
Khaleel Ahmed (Getty Image)

Khaleel Ahmed is just two ODIs old, but his pace has not gone unnoticed. With an ability to consistently bowl over 140 km/h, the 20-year-old fast bowler feels he can be a wonderful addition to India’s bowling unit. Having got the nod for the Asia Cup ahead of the likes Jaydev Unadkat and Barinder Sran, the belief is that India’s long-standing search for a quick left-arm pacer might have ended with Khaleel.

Having received his maiden cap during India’s first game of the Asia Cup, Khaleel took 3 for 48 against Hong Kong. He was then left out for the tie against Pakistan and Bangladesh before returning against Afghanistan, taking 1/45. Khaleel was subsequently drafted into the squad for the first two ODIs against West Indies and remains a strong contender to play the first ODI in Guwahati on Sunday.

Content with the progress he’s made in his career, Khaleel believes his ability to bowl quick can make him a handy addition for the team.

“Bowling fast is my strength and I think my left-arm pace can be beneficial for India. I feel my pace and the extra bounce that I can extract, that has given me plenty of wickets in the domestic format and I believe that can be a reason behind the selectors showing their faith in me.” Khaleel said while addressing the media on Friday.

“I’m happy with my progress. When I made my debut, I was nervous because to play my first game in a tournament as big as the Asia Cup was a big deal for me. The aim was to bowl well so I could present a strong case for my inclusion in the team. The match against Hong Kong went well so that made me believe that I can play longer.”

India have 18 ODIs left before now and the World Cup, and with the fast bowling department shaping well, Khaleel intends on cashing in on opportunities to stake a claim for the World Cup.

“The bowling unit is performing well so the plan is to take the confidence forward. That is my plan,” Khaleel said. “I’m viewing this series as part of my preparation to play the World Cup. There are still some ODIs left before the World Cup, so the aim is to make the most of those matches. The more wickets I take, the more confident I’ll be. If I make it to the World Cup, having wickets behind me will help me cope better with pressure.”

The first of those 18 games take place on Sunday, when India face West Indies in the first ODI at Guwahati. While the visitors were no match for India in the Test series – both matches finishing inside three days, the 20-year-old believes West Indies are a much-improved side in ODIs and that he will find it challenging of he makes it to the Playing XI.

“In ODIs, West Indies are a much-improved side. How to operate with the new ball and during the death overs, will remain my big test,” he said. “The weather and the conditions look good, ideal for swing.”

When India won the Asia Cup defeating Bangladesh in the final, the sight of Khaleel holding the trophy the trophy was splashed across various newspapers. It was the decision that was taken by former India captain MS Dhoni, who as per reports, asked skipper Rohit Sharma to give newcomer Khaleel the opportunity. Khaleel revealed how the senior members of the team were supportive throughout.

“Obviously, the seniors are all very helpful because I am the junior most member of the team. But I don’t feel like it because we all talk a lot with each other and my teammates are always there to give me confidence. Even during the match, when I’m not bowling well or I feel low, I speak to them and it’s always very helpful,” he said.

Khaleel has been praised by many former cricketers, but none more prominently than Zaheer Khan, who has rated him a very bright prospect.

“I was working with Zaheer bhai for two years when I was with the Delhi Daredevils. Since during the IPL, we play in different cities and different type of pitches, to various batsmen, he was always there with his two cents. I think he’s made me a lot mature as a bowler,” said Khaleel.