ISLAMABAD - Pakistan U-19 cricket team new sensation Zeeshan Malik looks determined to prove himself and earn a place in the national senior team in the coming Sri Lanka series.

Talking to The Nation, Zeeshan Malik, who was named player of the tournament in the recently-concluded National U-19 One-Day Championship 2015, said: “Cricket is my life and passion, and just because of sheer love and passion of cricket, I shun my studies after 8th class. My family, especially my brother and dad supported me a lot and helped me start playing at the age of 14 at Greenland Cricket Club, Rawalpindi under the coaching of Ghulam Mustafa. Then I was selected to represent Rawalpindi U-16 and now I am 18 and already representing Rawalpindi Region in U-19 for the last three years.”

He said: “I have also played against England in England and played three ODIs and one 3-day match with 158 as my highest score. I also played against Kenya in four ODIs and 154 was my highest score and against England in UAE, I played featured in a 3-day match.”

“I have set my sights on playing next years’ U-19 World Cup for Pakistan. For the second year in running, I was awarded player of the tournament award, and I would like to say a big thanks to Rawalpindi Region head coach Sabih Azhar, who is my mentor and hunt me and gave me chance to showcase my skills. Had Sabih Azhar not encouraged and guided me well, I could have still struggling to get a chance. He is a true gentleman and highly professional, and I enjoy a great deal while playing under his guidance. He truly transformed me into a more mature batsman,” the emerging U-19 player added.

Zeeshan said that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) must introduce some kind of system so that U-19 players could also earn at least stipends, if not possible to provide them with central contracts. “Cricket is very expensive now and it is very hard to bear expenses without family support. Everybody can't bear such expenses so it is my request to PCB chairman Shaharyar M Khan and PCB governing body member Shakil Sheikh to look into this matter of grave importance for the future of junior players and arrange sponsorships or jobs if possible for the emerging players. If the PCB does so, it is my challenge the board will find a lot of brilliant players. Majority of players can't make it to bigger stage just because of expenditures.”

“Pakistan is blessed with natural talent. AB de Villers is my favorite player while I also love Ahmed Shahzad as an opening batsman. I learn a lot by watching the videos of former greats playing and try to copy them. It was an ideal season for me, and it was mainly possible because of the hard work put in by Sabih Azhar, who provide me every possible help and guidance to excel and emerge as a top player. The best thing of Sabih’s coaching is that he very politely guides his students and encourage them well, therefore, they perform well and win glories for the country,” he added.

When asked about his chances of playing in the first edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL), Zeeshan replied: “It is too early to even think about playing in the PSL, but one thing is for sure, the youngsters will get benefit from it, as while playing alongside greats of modern days, it will help them learn a lot, and also in form of financial boost.

“I am fully composed and focused on performing well in the Sri Lanka series and book my place in the national U-19 squad for the next year’s U-19 World Cup and play leading role in helping the team win the coveted trophy after a long gap. We have potential to excel at the top, but we missed quite a few chances of winning the world cup in the past, but I strongly believe this is the time, we will be able to lift the title as we have assembled and very balanced team,” Zeeshan concluded.