Did Khaleed Ahmed end India's search for a left-arm pacer?
Khaleel Ahmed's sterling show at Brabourne Stadium in fourth ODI against West Indies may have ended Virat Kohli & Co's search for a left-arm pacer
With only nine more ODIs left for Team India before they play next year's World Cup, one of the areas that the team management is looking to further bolster is its pace bowling department. There is no doubting the fact that India's pace unit has been the best-performing department so far, consistently contributing across all formats, even when India's batting arsenal has failed.
There is no dearth of variety either, given Bhuvneshwar Kumar's menacing swing, Jasprit Bumrah's death bowling prowess, Mohammed Shami's lethal variations, Umesh Yadav's sheer pace and Ishant Sharma's experience. However, there seemed to be a vacancy in the left-arm pace department particularly after Saurashtra's Jaydev Unadkat was not persisted with beyond the T20I series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Khaleel Ahmed, 20, was on the radar after he was included in the India 'A' squad to England in June-July, followed by the quadrangular series. He claimed three wickets against minnows Hong Kong in his ODI debut in the Asia Cup opener, followed by a wicket each in his next three outings (v Afghanistan in Asia Cup and two v West Indies in the ongoing ODI series). The lanky pacer however finally seems to have come to the party.
On Monday, Khaleel returned with 3-13 in five overs to deflate West Indies' chase in the fourth ODI at the Brabourne Stadium. Khaleel claimed a wicket each in his three consecutive overs to destroy West Indies' middle-order comprising of Shimron Hetmyer (13), Rovman Powell (1) and the dangerous Marlon Samuels (18). He sent back Hetmyer and Powell with an in-swinger and then claimed Samuels with his natural angle that drew an outside edge to first slip.
It's no wonder then that India's vice-captain Rohit Sharma hailed the youngster. "Khaleel is a promising prospect. With a left-arm seamer, you always have that edge. If he's swinging the ball the way he is, any batsman in the world will find it difficult. He's maturing very fast, he understands his bowling," said Rohit going on to add that the pacer could play a crucial role in India's World Cup campaign in England.
"I hope he continues to do that [keep bowling well] because it's only going to be better for us. Come New Zealand, and the World Cup in England, where the ball swings a lot, he might be very handy there," added Rohit. Skipper Virat Kohli too lavished praise on young Khaleel. "Khaleel is an exciting talent. If the pitch has something to offer, he can extract something. He bowled in the right areas, not too full, not too short. I'm happy to see him make the ball talk," said Kohli.
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