After an impressive run for Rajasthan in junior age groups, left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed made into the India U-19 squad in 2015. For most of the U-19 World Cup 2016, he played in the shadow of Avesh Khan, who troubled the batsmen with serious pace and uncomfortable bounce. A fifer against Pakistan in the same tournament helped him steal some limelight from his new-ball partner but it was still a long way to go for him. The World Cup show did earn him the IPL cap when Delhi Daredevils picked him at last year’s auctions. Plenty of seam-bowling options kept him on the bench throughout the season, and inclusion of Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins means it could be a similar case this year too.
Not disheartened after carrying drinks for a season, Khaleel is happy to pick his idol Zaheer Khan’s brain. The youngster feels having a bowler as captain is very helpful. “I was with Zaheer bhai previous year too, as a bowler himself, he understands what is going on in my mind and guides me accordingly. Playing with him has been very beneficial to me,” Khaleel told the indianexpress.com in an exclusive chat.
After interacting with Zaheer for a season, Khaleel reveals the veteran’s advice have been very valuable in his growth as a seamer. “His advice on how important fitness is for a bowler, how to use swing and pace, how to use variation in bowling on different pitches has helped improving my traits. He also explains how to bowl in different match situations, on the kind of pitch and how and when to go for yorker or slower ones.”
For Khaleel, it’s a very exciting situation to share the dressing room with two of the finest bowlers in the world at the moment. Yet to speak to them, the youngster wants to learn about fitness, bowling in death over and more from the duo of Rabada and Cummins.
“So far I have not spoken to them (Cummins and Rabada). However having in the same side I can learn on fitness and get to know what goes on in their mind while bowling in the death overs, because it is then the pressure mounts on the bowler. However, I am concentrating and trying to focus on guidance only from Zaheer sir, It is rather advisable and it is going to be advantageous to me,” said Khaleel.
Reunited with Dravid
After spending close to an year with U-19 coach Rahul Dravid, Khaleel feels fortunate to reunite with the former Indian skipper at the Delhi Daredevils.
“‘The wall stands strong’ and I feel fortunate that I’am getting more time to spend with (Rahul) Dravid sir.” said Khaleel. “I take it as my good luck that I have him as my guide and mentor. He is a legend, always open to come and discuss our problems. Having him in Delhi Daredevils gives me extra time and opportunities to learn from him.”
Any special advice from Dravid? Khaleel revealed, “keep pitching balls at one spot which frustrates a batsman to the extent of losing his wicket; he has advised that consistency in bowling really helps.”