Hyderabad's Ibrahim Khaleel makes it to USA squad for World Cricket League

Hard work has finally paid off for the Hyderabad-born wicketkeeper-batsman, as he has been named in the USA squad for the ICC Division Three World Cricket League tournament, which begins in Uganda next month.

Ibrahim Khaleel in the USA jersey.   -  ICC Americas

Four years back when Ibrahim Khaleel shifted to the U. S. permanently, he was not sure whether he would be able to continue playing cricket. After all, he was heading to a country which was just taking baby steps in the game.

But then, Ibrahim couldn't have done much about it. After being away from his wife for quite some time, he had to settle down with his better half, who is a doctor settled in the U. S.

Leaving behind Hyderabad's rich cricketing glory, it was not easy for Ibrahim to adjust to the situation. The fears of moving far away from cricket could have only worsened the matter. But then, Ibrahim managed to hold his ground and stay focussed.

Whenever the slightest opportunity came his way, Ibrahim grabbed it. On weekends, when most of his friends in Chicago would be making party plans, Ibrahim would wake up early in the morning and get ready for local club cricket league tournament.

“You couldn't afford to miss out on any of the matches,” Ibrahim tells Sportstar from Paris, where he is on a vacation with his wife, ahead of their wedding anniversary.

 

And, the hard work has finally paid off for the Hyderabad-born wicketkeeper-batsman, as he has been named in the USA squad for the ICC Division Three World Cricket League tournament, which begins in Uganda next month.

Late on Monday night, the ICC Americas, which is working on selecting the players and the team, announced a 15-member squad and the list features Ibrahim as the stumper-batsman.

"That's the best thing you can hear. I am happy to be back in business," Ibrahim says.

In March, Sportstar was first to report about Ibrahim being short-listed for the USA team. And as the news broke out early on Tuesday (Indian time), friends and family of the cricketer could only bask in the glory.

"It's a great feeling that Bhaiya has made it to the USA team. He always wanted to play cricket and we are glad that it happened," Ibrahim's brother Ismail tells this publication.

The 15-member squad also features Timil Patel, who recently became an U.S. citizen. Earlier, Ibrahim was a bit under pressure on whether he would be given a chance to play for USA, since his citizenship process was still not cleared. But things cleared after he got his USA citizenship and passport on April 14.

But for the selectors, all that wasn't a problem. After watching him at the trials last year, they were confident about Ibrahim, who has played 57 Ranji Trophy games for Hyderabad.

Coming from a family of cricketers (his father, M. A. Khaleel, played for Railways in the Ranji Trophy in early eighties), Ibrahim started his career under the watchful eyes of Arshad Ayub.

“It all started in Hyderabad. Slowly, I made it to the state team and left my mark in the domestic tournaments. But then, I had to take the tough call of leaving the country. The scopes were less there,” Ibrahim had said during a previous interaction with Sportstar.

Even after moving to the U.S. in 2013, Ibrahim continued playing for Hyderabad in the 2014-15 season.

In 2011, Ibrahim created a world record in wicketkeeping for any First-Class game with a tally of 14 victims in a Ranji Trophy Plate Group B match against Assam.

While Ibrahim says he has no regrets in life, some of his former team-mates in Hyderabad indicate that the stumper had taken a couple of wrong decisions, which affected his career. In 2007, he left Hyderabad Ranji Trophy side and joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL). That halted his career.

Later, when the BCCI brought back the ICL players in the mainstream, Ibrahim was brought by the Mumbai Indians (MI) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). However, he had to warm the benches.

“I was looking for an opportunity, but that never came my way,” he had said.

But all that wouldn't matter much to him now. The once upon a time Hyderabad stumper dreamt of playing for Team India someday, but in a strange stroke, he is now out to win the world, albeit in different colours!

The squad: Steven Taylor (capt.), Akeem Dodson, Alex Amsterdam, Camilus Alexander, Elmore Hutchinson, Fahad Babar, Jasdeep Singh, Mohammed Ahsan Ali Khan, Ibrahim Khaleel, Mrunal Patel, Nicholas Standford, Noshtush Kenjige, Timil Patel, Timroy Allen, Sagar Patel (travelling reserve).