DTG Interviews Zeeshan Malik

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DTG: Zeeshan! you have recently scored three centuries in 4 matches in the domestic level at an appealing strike rate of above 100. How does that feel? Do you enjoy youself performing with other top level players?

Zeeshan: Obviously! It's a top cricketing event. Almost all the nationals are playing in the tournament. So, to perform among them and help my team win is a thing of joy.

DTG: Before heading to other questions, tell us how you got into cricket? How did you reached at this stage?

Zeeshan: Like others, I also come from a background where you are told to concentrate more on studies and all that. My career also started with tapeball cricket. There was very less time available for playing cricket because of the studies. All the members of our family are well educated. So, most of my attention was drawn towards the studies. My elders always told me to study, study and study but I had interest in cricket. My big brother also played cricket. Watching him play, the craze for cricket grew more. We used to get the chance of playing cricket only on the Sundays and that too if any of the teammates of my brother's team hadn't come. I and my brother used to play cricket on the roof then I started to play in the ground too. Then I turned towards tapeball when my brother allowed me to and I started playing tapeball. Some friends told me that my batting style is good and they counseld me to join a cricket club. One of my friend took me to a cricket club for the first time; I joined the club amd started practicing. I gave trials for U16 and got selected. I played a PCB national U16 tournament. I performed well in that tournament and was 2nd highest scorer. Then, I got named in national cricket academy where Mansoor Rana and other big names coached me.

After that, I played U19 at district level and topped it, then region level. Next year, in district level, I remember being runout on 99 in 1st match and didn't play the 2nd one. In 3rd match I was 208.

I got selected for the tours of New Zealand and England where I scored 158 runs and got wickets too against England.

DTG: You scored with an average of 100 in 2016 U19 tournament. Do you think that was the stepping stone for you to be on the bigger level?

Zeeshan: Yes! When I got back after playing in England, Pakistani pitches started to suit me and I performed well. Two years were remaining for me to play U19. Our Rawalpindi team played 14 matches in between and we didn't lose a single match. In 2nd year, I played exceptionally well and scored centuries in quarterfinal, semifinal and final. In the tour of Kenya, I also had the average of 100+ with the best of 154.

DTG: You also played a tri-series against Australia and New Zealand in UAE. How did that go?

Zeeshan: That series was our preparation for the world cup and we were up on the run-rate (as it was a no-final series). Then in world cup in Bangladesh, I scored 89 and 93 against Canada and England respectively.

DTG: In the semi Final of ODI domestic cup this year, you were sent down at number at. Whose decision was this to try you as a hitter?

Zeeshan: I scored 30 odd in 15 balls in that match. It was the requirement that time because I had less list-A experience and there were good players before me. So it was imossible to take the place of my much-more-experienced seniors and I had to come at number 8. I had no problem playing at any number.

DTG: Suppose, if you have to bat down the order as a hitter according to the situation, will you find it difficult to come and hit (as opposed to your innings construction)?

Zeeshan: I have no problem in that as my natural game supports the conditions. For example, I enjoy playing lofted shots and some of the areas are my strength. So if a get a ball in my areas, no matter what time of the innings, I try to obtain most of them. But sometimes you have to understand conditions. Against WAPDA, a wicket fell down in the first over and wickets keep tumbling over with intervals. So I tooke more than 130 balls to score 149. Our final score was 270 so we defended that. From there on, started our winning combination.

DTG: Do you feel the transition after going from U16 to U19 and then list-A - where big names are playing? Do you feel the difference of experience and difficulty playing list-A?

Zeeshan: When I was in U19, I used to get many bad balls to put away and to drive easily but when I debuted for list-A, I didn't play the initial matches. I observed things by watching my seniors like Muhammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Muhammad Nawaz and analyze things. I realised that it required a lot more patience and bad-ball quantity is far too less here.

DTG: Is playing aggressively your natural game plan?

Zeeshan: It depends on situation of the game. If you have wickets left, then you should take risk of getting one or two boundaries per over to get the target to a reasonable numbers. If the condition is bad and your team is down, then you have to survive. Thanks to Allah Almighty, I have that kind of quality to manage play the situation. If I get balls in my strong zones, I go searching for boundaries. I think batsman's job is to score, not to survive.

DTG: What is your favourite format?

Zeeshan: It's really a difficult question. White-ball cricket suits because of the stroke-play. For a three or four day game, I have to change my natural game slightly but a batsman should adjust himself towards every format.

DTG: You have played in England and other countries. Do you think pitches are hard to bat on in Pakistan?.

Zeeshan: I played most of my matches from Rawalpindi in Rawalpindi. The pitches in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are greener than other regions of Pakistan. It's heard that both time all out in a single day for 50 odd runs and last year our match with FATA ended in two days. So pitches in Rawalpindi are difficult.

DTG: What is your choice? A flat pitch or a green pitch (to prepare batsmen).

Zeeshan: Batsmen should adjust himself to every type of pitch but playing on a green pitch -- despite it being favourable to bowlers -- is enjoyable. Pitch should be a normal when where a 4-day match could survive four days.

DTG: Which player did or do you idolise and want to become like him?

Zeeshan: I like [Muhammad] Hafeez Bhai and have watched him a lot from the beginning. The matches in which he gets going, Pakistan wins it with ease because he plays with a 100+ strike rate. In contrast to other players, his strike rate is quite good. I like his paddle-sweep and played that shot quite a few times in T20s or other shorter-format tournaments but not in ODIs.

DTG: One of your fans stated, "You play back foot punch very handsomely. Is it natural or you practice for it?"

Zeeshan: Well, Practice makes a man perfect. You have do practice all kinds of shots which you play in the game. I practice on the shots I find I'm weak in in the club. And fellows in the club and coaches help me to to point out my weaknesses and work on them. I do not practice my strong zones; I try to eradicate weaknesses.

DTG: You represented Rawalpindi for a good span of time. How was this experience?

Zeeshan: I've enjoyed a lot and played for Rawalpindi to help win my team.

DTG: What is the role of Sabih Azhar in your success?

Zeeshan: All the guidelines we get are from Sabih bhai. He watches our matches and then we have discussions to minimise our mistakes. He has an important role as he's guided us all during the practice.

DTG: How's your fielding and be very "honest" about this question?

Zeeshan: Fielding is good. What can I say? I've dropped catches but clung on to some good ones as well.

DTG: There's a lot of talk going about in senior Pakistan and Pakistan A team about fitness. So, What's your schedule for fitness and diet? Do you do the fitness routines off-season as well?

Zeeshan: As I told before, I came NCA for U16s. When we were about to go home from the academy, they used to give us a fitness plan. We talked about it with professional trainers in NCA and what do you do off-season.

DTG: I (the self-called godfather of DTG with others refusing the fact) was shocked to not see you selected yby any PSL franchise in the draft. What's your reaction?

Zeeshan: I was a bit shocked too. I was hopeful to be picked but not to be.

DTG: Did any franchise approach you?

Zeeshan: No, no franchise approached me but I was hopeful towards Islamabad and Lahore as I had performed very well in their talent hunt programs. Islamabad held a tournament where I was captain and we won that. I scored 109* in 1st match and 102 in 2nd one and 42 in a rain-influenced match after that. I was averaging 250 in that tournament. So, I thought I deserved to be in Islamabad United.

For Lahore Qalander, I was their first centurion and scored two fifties as well and was a top scorer. But (sighs!) I was hopeful towarda both these franchises.

DTG: I (yes! you guessed it right) am a Karachi Kings fan as I am from Karachi. I wanted Karachi to pich someone like you. If they had asked me for advice, I would've asked them to pick you. I also want your name in the replacement draft because your performances speak their volumes. I genuinely believe that.

Zeeshan: I think I should move on and look forward to the national cup where I'd be representing Multan.

DTG: Do you have any target before which you should be in main squad of Pakistan?

Zeeshan: I had the target of playing for Pakistan in this season as well. But some things are not in your hand. My job is to perform and be the main player of the region for which I play to get all matches to play. I have this urge to come in top5/top10 batsmen.

DTG: In your point of view, what thing or aspect of yours you think you should improve?

Zeeshan: Till last year, my mind used to circle around getting runs on every second ball and I got out to that particular mindset many times. Last season, Azhar Ali bhai and Hafeez bhai played in our region. I was in the squad but not in the playing XI. Sitting in dugout, I learnt many things like how to build an innings watching both of them and having discussion with them. So I applied their formula of waiting-for-the-bad-ball to myself. It resulted in a long-lasting innings from me in any situation. I used to play on-the-up very much so I minimised it and worked on it.

DTG: What's the most difficult bowler you've faced till today in your career?

Zeeshan: (chuckles) Irfan bhai. Due to height. His hand comes from above the sight-screen view and his deliveries rise at you so it's difficult to play him.

DTG: Are you comfortable against spin?

Zeeshan: I like playing against spinners and I enjoy playing them. My feet movement is quite good so I hit them for sixes coming down the track getting to the pitch of the deliveries.

DTG: When we can see you in action next?

Zeeshan: You can see me in the upcoming National T20 in December. inshaAllah.