Twenty-year-old Khaleel Ahmed, with an experience of only two first-class games, became the 222nd player to represent India in One Day Internationals on Tuesday. He received his cap a few hours before the Asia Cup encounter against Hong Kong.
The fast bowler from Rajasthan was picked by the selectors keeping the World Cup in mind. M.S.K. Prasad, chairman of selectors, had justified the inclusion citing the need for a left-arm pacer in the ranks.
Regular outings with the national side could groom the bowler leading up to the showpiece event in May 2019.
In an earlier interview with Sportstar , Khaleel had said, “I still can’t believe that I have made it to the Indian team. That too for the Asia Cup! It is a big moment for me. Ever since I played cricket, I have been aggressive and have always wanted to do something in life. It feels great to be rewarded.”
Khaleel is a product of the Rahul Dravid school of coaching. He brushed his skills under the legendary cricketer in his U-19 days for India.
Khaleel idolises former India bowler Zaheer Khan. Though he was benched in his entire IPL stint with Delhi Daredevils in 2016 and 2017, the tips from the then skipper Khan helped him improve.
“He has always been a mentor and it was after interacting with him that I could improve my game. I want to cement my place in the team and then scale the heights like Zaheer,” he said.
He was part of the India U-19 side that lost to West Indies in the colts’ World Cup in 2016. Khaleel was back in the reckoning with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier this year. He claimed 17 wickets in 10 games and finished the tournament as the second highest wicket-taker.
It also earned him a contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. He played only one game but sharing the dressing room with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kane Williamson was a learning curve for the youngster.
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