Khaleel Ahmed (left) with his father. (TOI Photo)
JAIPUR: Mention Dubai and Khaleel Ahmed is overwhelmed by memories. And why not? It was in this city in the UAE that the left-arm pacer made a memorable international debut two years back.
“Match atka hua tha (match could have gone either way). I was given the ball and I made an instant impact with two important wickets of Hong Kong batsmen,” Khaleel was quick to remark. The 22-year-old made his India debut in the Asia Cup in 2018 against Hong Kong where he helped the team led by Rohit Sharma evade the scare of an upset. India won the match by 26 runs and Khaleel ended up with an impressive figure of 3-48 off 10 overs.
As the fast bowler is ready to embark on journey to the UAE to play in the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), he is optimistic about putting up a good show but he is also aware of the fact the flat Emirates wickets are heavily in batsmen’s favour. The lanky southpaw is aware that on such wickets he will have to bend his back and admits that the pacers will not get anything served on a silver platter.
“I have an idea about the conditions there and pacers have to be smart enough if they want to have an upper hand on pitches which heavily favour batsmen. Also, a lot of matches will be played on the same venue and on the same pitches, which will make things even more difficult for fast bowlers. All fast bowlers will need to use a lot of ‘grey matter’ to fox the batsmen. Let’s see how things turn out, but I am prepared for the challenge,” said the SRH bowler who landed in Mumbai from Jaipur on Friday. The players of the Hyderabad-based franchise will assemble in Mumbai ahead of their departure to Dubai on August 23 to play the 13th edition of the IPL.
He added that irrespective of the venue, the limited-over cricket is batsman-friendly. “Flat pitches, small boundaries, field restrictions, bat dimension, the rules in place, makes it heavily tilted in favour of batsmen. And T20 is specifically a difficult format for fast bowlers. But it has a positive side to it. It will make bowlers more innovative in pursuit of being effective,” he added.
The left-arm bowler from Rajasthan is approaching the T20 league with an eye on making a comeback into the Indian team. After a forgettable outing against Bangladesh in November last year, he was out-of-favour, but in the UAE, he will look to regain the favour and faith of the national selectors. “I feel there is a possibility that if you do well in the IPL, you can be in the India reckoning. Here you play against the best players of international repute. It’s not that easy as you might think. If a youngster performs in these intense pressure situations in the IPL, he leaves an impression. So, I feel this opportunity to play for SRH is crucial for me,” said Khaleel who has represented India in 11 ODIs and 14 T20Is.
“I have worked really hard on my inswingers and action. It is going to be tough there in the UAE, but I will try and make sure to implement in my bowling what I have worked so hard upon in the last few months,” the bowler from Tonk district of Rajasthan said.
The SRH bowler took 19 wickets in nine matches and was a vital cog of the team in the last IPL season. Talking about who he turns to in the Hyderabad team for advice during the match, Khaleel said it is fellow pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar. “He is a bowler himself and that is why he understands the psyche of a bowler better. So I prefer to take his advice when the match is on,” he added.