With ten wickets in two matches, Mohammad Zeeshan, the 17-year-old six-foot-eight Pakistan fast bowler, has taken the 2023 Under-19 Asia Cup by storm.
Mohammad Zeeshan in the U19 Asia Cup
In Pakistan’s tournament opener, Zeeshan tore through Nepal to finish with figures of 6-19. When Pakistan needed only 22 to win, captain Saad Baig promoted Zeeshan to No.5. Zeeshan hit two fours and two sixes to finish on an eight-ball 20 not out.
In the unlikely case of Pakistan being involved in a three-way tie with India and Afghanistan, Zeeshan’s blows might have tilted the balance in his team’s favour. Before all that happens, however, he provided an even better performance, against India.
Zeeshan returned 4-46 against Pakistan’s arch rivals. His wickets included Rudra Mayur Patel and Musheer Khan, two of India’s keep-an-eye-on talents, and Sachin Dhas, who slammed a 42-ball 58 to lift India to 259-9. Pakistan won by eight wickets with three overs to spare.
Who is Mohammad Zeeshan?
Born in the Chak 58 JB Lillan village near Faisalabad, Zeeshan is the youngest of the three brothers. One of his elder brothers, a talented cricketer himself, could not fulfil his dreams due to financial constraints, but insisted Zeeshan became a cricketer.
The two-metre frame is Zeeshan’s greatest asset, for it helps him generate additional bounce. Still only 17, he may yet grow even taller. However, it also comes with unexpected disadvantages. For example, he struggles to find shoes or cricket kit of his size, and long flights are a perennial concern.
What has Zeeshan done before the Asia Cup?
Zeeshan played in the National Under-19 One-Day Cup and the three-day National Under-19 Championship of 2021/22, and was picked as a travelling reserve for the 2022 Under-19 World Cup in the West Indies, the part of the world where his role model Curtly Ambrose (not unexpected, given his build) hails from. He did not get a match, but at least he boarded a flight for the first time.
The next month, 15-year-old Zeeshan made his debut in senior cricket, in a Pakistan Cup match for Central Punjab against the Northern. Taking new ball, he took out former Test cricketer Umar Amin to help his team triumph by 66 runs.
Later that year, the PCB launched the Pakistan Junior League, where Zeeshan’s 14 wickets for the Bahawalpur Royals were three clear of anyone else’s tally in the league. That helped him break through into the Pakistan Under-19s squad for the Bangladesh series. From three Youth ODIs, he returned figures of 24-3-94-6.
With Pakistan not playing age-group internationals until the 2023 Asia Cup, Zeeshan did not get many opportunities since then. Once he returned, however, he reminded the world quickly of his potential, a particularly encouraging message in a country whose pace riches have not lived up to reputation of late.
Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews, and much more.