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Asia Cup 2018: Rahul Dravid turned my career around, want to emulate Zaheer Khan - Khaleel Ahmed

Speaking to Hindustan Times, left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed said that he almost had a nervous breakdown when he was told that he has been picked for the multi-nation tournament in UAE.

cricket Updated: Sep 18, 2018 12:36 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
asia cup,asia cup 2018,rahul dravid
File image of Khaleel Ahmed.(Getty Images for Nissan)

Khaleel Ahmed is the sole surprise in the 16-member squad announced by India for the upcoming Asia Cup in UAE and the left-arm fast bowler wants to thank Rahul Dravid for being the perfect guide in his career. Having started off under Dravid’s guidance at the U-19 level, Khaleel now wants to emulate his idol Zaheer Khan and win India games with his bowling performances.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Khaleel said that he almost had a nervous breakdown when he was told that he has been picked for the multi-nation tournament in UAE.

“I am literally shivering right now. I cannot believe that I am part of the Indian team. This is like a dream come true for me. I have been doing well and that has been my focus. Every player wants to represent the country when he starts playing the game and I am no different. But I must thank Dravid sir for being there and turning me around from a nervous starter to a confident bowler,” he said.

Asked about Dravid’s influence in his career, Khaleel said: “I cannot thank him enough. When I started off at the U-19 level, I would be nervous to start with and would often make silly mistakes in the process. But under his guidance, I gained in confidence and I can confidently say that he has had a big role in my growth as a cricketer.

“The best part with Dravid sir is that he gives you that freedom to go out and express yourself. He would tell me that the best way to learn is in the middle and one should never shy away from trying new things. He has had a huge impact on how my career shaped up.”

Picked in the squad for the Asia Cup, Khaleel now wishes to emulate his hero Zaheer Khan. “I grew up idolising him and if you ask me, I wish to bowl like him and win India games. Even if I can get close to his achievements for the country, that will be a big feat for me. But I don’t wish to get carried away and want to make steady progress.”

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His U-19 teammate Rishabh Pant has already played for India in both the shorter and longer format and Khaleel too wishes to cement his place in the team. “It feels really good when I see Rishabh playing for the country and hopefully I can also cement my place in the team with consistent performances,” he smiled.

While Khaleel played for India at the U-19 level, his experience in the IPL helped him learn more about performing at the highest level. “I was a bit nervous to start with, but then, I realised that it was all about being confident of your own game. Also, the experience of travelling and preparing along with international stars helped me learn more about how one prepares for big games,” he said.

Virat Kohli has made no bones about the fact that India needs quality left-arm pacers and Khaleel says even though he also liked batting to start with, lack of quality bowlers saw him turn to bowling.

“I also loved to bat as a kid, but then, when I realized that you cannot have 11 batsmen in the team and need bowlers to pick wickets, I turned to bowling. I have been running in hard and looking to pick wickets ever since,” he signed off.

First Published: Sep 01, 2018 14:03 IST