‘Focusing on taking every opportunity to play for England’ – Malan targets recall in longer formats
England batsman Dawid Malan is trying to force his way back into Test contention with his move to Yorkshire after 13 seasons with Middlesex. He had two seasons left on his contract at the club, but was allowed to leave and take up a four-year contract at Headingley. He had been captain for the last two years at the London club and gave up captaincy at the end of the 2019 season.
“I needed a fresh start and a fresh challenge for myself,” Malan told Cricingif.
“Middlesex have been an unbelievable club and a family to me. I wanted to try something different towards the last stage of my career. Yorkshire seem to be a very good club, that are trying to win trophies and I would want to be part of the journey.
“I want to play all three formats for England. The part of the move was to keep challenging myself and to become a better cricketer. I am hoping to build on the season I had in a red-ball cricket this year and improve on that. The onus is on me to pile up pressure on the guys who are playing for England currently."
Malan, unsurprisingly, moved up all the way to No. 3 in the men's T20I rankings for batsmen after his heroics against New Zealand. Pakistan batsman Babar Azam still tops the charts with 876 rating points, while Australia’s T20I captain, Aaron Finch, moved up two spots to reach No. 2 in the latest update.
“It is exciting to be ranked No. 3 in the world in T20I cricket. I was a little surprised and I was not expecting that to happen so soon. I am sure these numbers keep changing pretty rapidly.”
Malan was concerned by the criticism from England’s national selector, Ed Smith, but vowed to improve his game and nail down a spot. He has only two 50-plus scores in 13 innings in England. His only Test century came against Australia at Perth in 2017 as he was termed a strong back foot player by media pundits.
“It is never nice to have criticism, but Ed Smith explained to me exactly what he meant by that. It is never nice to hear, but ultimately I did not score the amount of runs I needed to score in England. I understand where I am and what I need to do to become better.”
His stellar performances in the series against New Zealand has given Chris Silverwood some serious selection headache. After a number of batsmen stepping up for England lately, Test skipper Joe Root’s place in the T20I side is no longer guaranteed. Root’s strike-rate in the format is a modest 126.30, as compared to Malan’s 156.31. He has accumulated 150 runs in seven innings since the start of 2018.
“I am not thinking about the Twenty20 World Cup squad at all. I am just focusing on taking every opportunity I am getting to play for England. I know it is tough to get game-time and it is just about grabbing the opportunity, scoring as many runs as possible and hopefully winning games for the country.”
Malan notched up 208 runs in four innings against New Zealand, including England’s fastest century in the format, coming off 48 balls. His record has become freakish. He is averaging 57.25 and has a strike-rate of 156.31. He was also involved in the highest ever partnership for England alongside Eoin Morgan (182 runs) in T20I cricket.
“It was an unbelievable feeling. I would not say it was crucial, but it was just nice to score runs and to help win a game for England. That win helped us get over the line in the fourth T20I and put us in a very good position, going into the last match, which we played fantastically well and won.”
The 32-year-old has only managed to feature nine times for England in T20I cricket, mainly due to the presence of explosive white-ball players. However, his tally of six 50-plus scores is the most by any cricketer at the same stage.
“The nine innings that I have played is down to the fact that there are some exceptional players in the squad who are playing ahead of me.
“We have a fantastic white-ball team; which Eoin Morgan has built. If you have better players and the players who have performed on a consistent basis, they deserve to be playing above you. It becomes significantly important to take those opportunities when they come.”
The left-hander also credited Peshawar Zalmi for helping him become a more ‘mature’ cricketer. He has scored 376 runs in 16 innings for the Pakistan Super League franchise and was part of the title-winning campaign back in 2017.
“Peshawar Zalmi helped me massively. You can play in front of big crowds in England, but you are always in your comfort zone. To be able to play in front of 30,000 passionate cricket fans and to have to do it as an overseas player with added pressure is special. You get to learn a hell of a lot.
“In my first season, I played with guys like Shahid Afridi, Daren Sammy and Wahab Riaz. They are experienced players and have contributed immensely for Pakistan cricket. You are able to pick their brains and talk to them about how they approach their cricket. It definitely helped me a lot in terms of knowing what I have to do and prepared me to deal with that extra pressure that comes from playing at a level up.”