Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed hopes he can fill in veteran pacer Zaheer Khan’s boots as he looks to cement his place in the Indian cricket team.

The 21-year-old has shown a lot of promise in the limited-over formats for the Men in Blue ever since making his senior international debut in September 2018 at the Asia Cup.

While he is not an automatic starter yet, he has been making the team regularly and has played 8 ODIs and 11 T20 internationals. The Rajasthan bowler said he wishes to spearhead India’s bowling attack just like Zaheer did during his 14-year-long career.

“I want to play as long as Zaheer bhai played for the country. I want to serve Team India the way he did,” Khaleel was quoted as saying by The Times of India. The youngster also revealed he calls on the senior pacer for advice often.

“When Zaheer bhai used to start proceedings for India, there used to be lots of excitement and cheer. I want to take my game to that level. I also want to become an asset for the team just like he was. Whenever I am in doubt, I call him [Zaheer], he is always available,” he added.

Khaleel’s performances for India A have also been impressive. He was the leading wicket taker for India A in One-Day Internationals over the past year, accounting for 26 wickets in 14 innings. Although the youngster was not selected in the Indian squad for the 2019 World Cup, Khaleel wasn’t disheartened upon his exclusion from the showpiece event.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sad when I was not picked for the World Cup. I told myself that I need more preparation to represent my country in a big tournament like the World Cup. I am young and this is not the end of the road for me. I have to go a long way,” he said in the interview.

“I always try to be honest with myself. I have to improve in life. When I was not picked [for the World Cup], I told myself that I still have to add a lot of things to my CV. My only aim is to play as long as possible for India. I have worked hard on my variations and speed for the upcoming series,” he added.

The 21-year-old is currently part of India’s ODI and Twenty20 squads for their tour of West Indies. During India’s two T20I wins so far against the Caribbean side, he has just picked one wicket.

Read the full interview here