Indian pacer Khaleel Ahmed couldn't start the T20I series against New Zealand on a good note as his figure read 1/48 in the first match. But the youngster came back strong with figures of 2/27 in the second game.
Khaleel revealed it was India's stand-in captain Rohit Sharma who helped him to do well despite a failure in the first game.
Rohit assisted Khaleel to understand the batsman better in the shorter format. Speaking to Hindustan Times, he said, “Rohit bhai spoke to me after the first match. He discussed where I was going wrong and explained to me the perspective of a batsman when he comes to the crease in a T20 game. He spoke on how I should prepare to take on the batsmen who are looking to attack from the word go. He spoke about the mindset of different batsmen and also how I should set specific fields for each opposition batsman. He really guided me a lot and most importantly asked me to bowl bindaas (carefree) and back my strength.
“Rohit bhai has played so many matches and when someone like him guides you, you know how to go about the job. After all, he is one of the most destructive batsmen in the shorter formats of the game. Him coming forward and sharing that experience helped a lot as I realized that I should not take any undue pressure just because the batsmen are looking to attack every ball."
It was Khaleel's first tour to New Zealand and no doubt the youngster was excited. “Was very excited about playing in New Zealand as I had heard that there is good bounce and the breeze helps the fast bowlers. I was really looking forward to playing in conditions that favor swing bowling.”
The chat with Rohit changed Khaleel’s approach completely as he walked onto the field in the second game. “After the first game, I was a bit nervous since it didn’t go as per plan. But after speaking to Rohit bhai, I gained confidence and realized that it was important to not overthink and bowl to my strength. So I followed the advice and bowled bindaas (carefree). I thought that there was no point being over cautious in my approach as T20 is anyway a batsman’s game. Backed myself and that helped as I started to pitch the slower ones and the yorkers in the right areas,” he said.
Khaleel was asked to bowl in the death overs and he is happy that team management trusted him for the role.
“I think it was a great feeling when they felt I am talented enough to bowl in the death. This team management realizes that youngsters need that confidence. It has been a dream to interact with the likes of Rohit bhai, Virat bhai (Kohli) and MS Dhoni. I think cricket is as much a mental game as it is of skills. You need to handle pressure and I think they felt I can do that. I was given the ball in the death as they felt that I will be able to handle the pressure at the end of the innings when the batsmen are looking to hit every ball out of the park. This has made me feel more confident as it isn’t a small thing when the team backs you in these situations. Juniors are always backed by the team,” he signed off.
(With Hindustan Times Inputs)