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A profile of Faisalabad born Pakistan Under-19 pace-bowler Mohammad Zeeshan who impressed as the top wicket-taker in the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Junior League.

Full Name: Mohammad Zeeshan
Date of Birth: 15 Apr 2006, Faisalabad (Chak 58 JB Lillan)
Major teams: Pakistan Under-19s, Central Punjab Blues Under 19s, Central Punjab, Bahawalpur Royals
Batting style: Right-handed
Bowling style: Right Arm Medium Fast
Height: 6ft 8in

Interest in Cricket

I am the youngest of three brothers in my family, and it was my elder brother who had an interest in the game but given our financial circumstances, he could not pursue a career in the game like he wanted to. Instead, he told me to go ahead and take up cricket as a profession and pursue my dreams of becoming a cricketer.

Tall height an advantage but comes with its own problems

I am exceptionally tall within my immediate family although I do have an uncle and a cousin who are also very tall. My friends would playfully make fun of my height calling me 'lamba', which wasn’t that much of a problem for me. But whilst my height has given me some advantage when it comes to bowling, there are a few problems as well. So, for example, if I like some shoes, I can’t find it in my size, or when I really want to buy some cricket kit that I like, it’s either out of stock for my size or not available at all and then I have to settle for something that I don’t really want - all this can be very frustrating. And then, sitting on long-haul flights such as the one I had to when I travelled to the West Indies for the Under-19 World Cup can also very uncomfortable.

Late bloomer - Playing hard-ball cricket at age 15

I was happy playing cricket for fun with friends and was coached by my elder brother until I went to Faisalabad and joined the Faisal Club after appearing for and impressing everyone with my bowling. My height and the bounce I got from the pitch was something they really liked at the club and I was given a chance to play hard-ball cricket. Later on, I played in the National Under-19 One-Day Cup 2021/22 and the National Under-19 Championship 2021/22 which consisted of 3-day games.

First international tournament, first international flight

After performing well at the domestic Under-19 level, I was selected as one of the traveling reserves for the ICC Under-19 Men's Cricket World Cup which was held earlier this year. Whilst I did not participate in any games in the tournament, the experience of visiting a foreign country and being part of a tournament squad was amazing. This was also the first time that I flew on a plane, and I had to learn some interesting new life skills.

Staying fit and eating the right village diet

I give a lot of attention to my fitness as this is a key part of any sportsperson’s life. In my case though, apart from fitness training in the morning and bowling in the nets, being a villager, I have the advantage of having access to ‘Desi Khoorak’ (village or home prepared food) which I find to be the best for my development. This sort of diet which includes pure butter, eggs, sugar and milk may feel strange to some city folk but it works for me like a charm.

Improving bowling speeds an objective

Whilst I have done well as a fast-bowler, I have always wanted to become an all-rounder but in recent times I haven’t had much time to practice my batting, but rest assured this is something I am paying attention to. My most preferred ball and the one that gives me a lot of wickets is the bouncer although I am also good at bowling Yorkers. My bowling speed has been measured around the 135KpH mark which I really want to improve upon in the future. I am working hard to sort this part of my bowling and I believe I will improve as a bowler as well as improving my speeds, God Willing.

Shoaib Akhtar and Curtly Ambrose as my role models

When it comes to bowling at fast speeds, there is no one better for me to emulate than our very own Shoaib Akhtar but if one was to ask me who is my role model, the one bowler I would want to be copy, then I would without a doubt say Curtly Ambrose.

Topping the charts in the Pakistan Junior League

To be part of a unique tournament like the inaugural edition of the PJL was an honour in itself but then to become the highest wicket-taker with 14 wickets in 8 games was like a dream come true. For that I am thankful to the coaches and also to our mentor for Bahawalpur Royals, Imran Tahir, for his advice and support throughout the tournament. To play alongside local and foreign players was a great experience and one that I will treasure for a long time.

Playing for Pakistan U19s against Bangladesh

After missing out in the Under-19 World Cup in the West Indies, I finally got a chance to shine for my country in the white-ball series against the visiting Bangladesh Under-19s. I played in 3 One-Day games taking 6 wickets in 3 matches and participated in one T20 where I had figures of 2/24. This was an amazing feeling to wear my country’s colours and what gave me a lot of confidence was the fact that the opposition batters treated me with a lot of respect. They would be going all guns blazing against the other bowlers but possibly due to my height, were careful when facing my bowling.

Future aspirations and dreams of playing in the PSL

A place in a Pakistan Super League team would be great for me but representing Pakistan in the future is what I am really aiming for and working hard on. Whether it’s in the white-ball or the longer red-ball format, I am ready to serve Pakistan when asked and when they feel I am ready to.