Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma gave me freedom to express myself: Khaleel Ahmed

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Khaleel Ahmed said that it has been a dream month and a half for him. But the 20-year-old says that it wouldn’t have been possible without the seniors guiding him.

cricket Updated: Nov 14, 2018 13:07 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
india vs australia,virat kohli,rohit sharma
Kolkata: Indian bowler Khaleel Ahmed celebrates the wicket of West Indies batsman Fabian during T20 match at Eden Garden in Kolkata (PTI)

He is just 9 games old on the international stage, but left-arm pace sensation Khaleel Ahmed says that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have made him feel like one of the integral members of this Indian team. With the Australia tour round the corner, Khaleel says that working closely with the likes of Kohli, Rohit and former India skipper MS Dhoni will stand him in good stead as he gears up for his biggest test so far in his international career.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Khaleel said that it has been a dream month and a half for him. From feeling nervous after getting his maiden India call-up ahead of the Asia Cup to winning India games with the ball in the series against West Indies, Khaleel has indeed started on the right foot. But the 20-year-old says that it wouldn’t have been possible without the seniors.

“It has been a dream ride by God’s grace. I am living a dream, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the senior members in the Indian team. Starting from Kohli bhai and Rohit bhai, they have all been very welcoming and made me feel at home from the word go. As a youngster going into the team, I was nervous to be honest, but they gave me the freedom to express myself with the ball.

“You might feel a lot of things about your own capabilities. But till the time the seniors don’t show that faith in your abilities, it means nothing. Both Kohli bhai — his captain in the Windies ODI series — and Rohit bhai — his captain in the Asia Cup and the WI T20I series — gave me that freedom and liberty. They said go and express yourself. Not for once did they wish to dictate the kind of field I should have or the line and length I should bowl. I am blessed to have such leaders,” he smiled.

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Talks of senior players cannot be complete without the mention of MS Dhoni. Interestingly, in the match against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, Dhoni was seen smiling at the end of the final over when Khaleel gave away just four runs. Not getting into details of what transpired, the pacer said that having Dhoni keep to him meant he could just focus on bowling in the right areas.

“I had the privilege of bowling with Mahi bhai behind the wicket. You know what is the best part for a bowler when he is keeping wickets? You don’t think about dropped catches and edges going through the gap when he is manning the zone behind the wicket. If you saw, I would keep the slip a little wide coz I knew Mahi bhai is there. As a bowler that sense of faith is huge. This apart, he was always there to tell me the line and length I should be focusing on. His calm demeanour almost rubs off on you,” he smiled.

Interestingly, while one would think that he would learn a few aspects of bowling from coach Bharat Arun, Khaleel reveals that skipper Kohli has also given him something to ponder on when it comes to being a world-class bowler.

“He is just so fit. I got a fair idea of where I need to take my fitness level to if I have to become one of the best bowlers on the international scene. If as a batsman he works so hard on his fitness, it is only obvious that I need to follow suit and try and work on my fitness apart from my bowling skills. He is in a league of his own when it comes to discipline and game preparation. The more you see him, the more you admire his work ethics.

“Bharat sir is also of great help and always open to sharing ideas and helping you out when you are looking to work on certain areas,” he said.

Coming to the Australia series, undoubtedly his biggest challenge so far, Khaleel said that landing a couple of days in advance will help in getting accustomed to the conditions.

“We are going there a few days before the opening T20I and that will definitely help us gauge the situation and the conditions on offer. I am not thinking too far ahead and will look to make the most of the opportunities presented. Yes, the wickets will aid fast bowling and the idea will be to bowl in the right areas and make the batsmen commit mistakes,” he signed off.

First Published: Nov 13, 2018 14:15 IST