Like the wily Wasim Akram, this wiry left-arm seamer from Tonk in Rajasthan too grew up bowling quick with the tennis ball. Khaleel Ahmed, looking to make a mark in the world of cricket, is more than eager to copy the “one and only” Zaheer Khan.
“Tennis ball cricket helped me grow as a fast bowler. We would play mostly on cement pitches and had to bowl fast. The tennis ball is light and helps you improve your arm rotation,” said Ahmed.
“I was with Zaheer Khan (at Delhi Daredevils). He taught me how to bowl on different pitches, what line and length to bowl to different batsmen. He corrected a lot of technical issues also,” said Ahmed after a fine spell in the final of the Deodhar Trophy where he was part of the title-winning India `B’ team.
Zaheer - who has a penchant for sharing his fast bowling prowess with the youngsters - rates Ahmed as a very bright prospect. “He’s a bowler to watch out for. I did work with him closely. He’s a very promising talent but needs to keep working hard. He has the ingredients to develop into a match-winner. It’s now up to him how much he can push himself.
"There’s no doubt he has the potential but will need to keep learning as he climbs the ladder. Fast bowling is very hard work and I’ve told him so,” said Zaheer.
Zaheer apart, Ahmed considers himself “blessed” for he could observe Rahul Dravid from close quarters during the 2016 ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. “He (Dravid) taught us a lot about life off the field and discipline.”
Ahmed also understood the difference between junior cricket and the next grade. “The difference is big but I am keen to learn and adapt,” said a confident Ahmed.
Ahmed, 20, understands the advantages of bowling left-arm. “The left-armer gets a huge advantage from a different angle.”
Zaheer has drilled the angle-advantage into his mind. Akram was lethal because he would fire the ball exploring different angles. Ahmed would love to work on this theory.