It’s remarkable how the current No. 1 ranked T20I batsman on the ICC rankings isn’t a first-choice batsman for England in the shortest format. And it’s even more remarkable that Dawid Malan has surged to the top despite playing a mere 16 T20Is which have spanned over three years. Tells you something about the consistency.
682 runs, average of 48.71, strike-rate of 146.66, seven half-centuries and one hundred. And all of this in a mere 16 T20I innings. These are Dawid Malan’s career numbers in T20I cricket.
No England player has scored more runs than his 682 runs since June 2017 (Malan’s T20I debut). No England player has more half-centuries than his seven. He is one of the only two England players to have hit a T20I century ever. He has the record for the fastest T20I hundred by an England player. Before the last T20I against Australia, he had the best T20I average (50.85) in the history of the game (with the qualification of minimum 500 T20I runs).
There is hardly anyone who even talks about Dawid Malan.
It was back in 2017 that he first arrived on the scene and started his international career with a bang. He smashed 78 off just 44 balls against a quality South African bowling attack. However, later that summer, he went on to make his Test debut and suddenly, became an integral part of the middle-order.
The left-hander flew to Australia for the Ashes and was England’s best batsman, scoring 383 runs at an average of 42.55 which included three half-centuries and a hundred. Yet, no talk about him.
He played the Trans-Tasmanian T20I tri-series that followed the Ashes. He featured in four games and struck three fifties, scoring 172 runs at an average of 43 and a strike-rate of 140.98. Yet, no one is talking about Dawid Malan.
He had a torrid 2018 as far as Test cricket is concerned. He could muster just 74 runs in five innings at the start of the home season in the three-Test matches he played against Pakistan and India combined. And boom, he’s dropped. All the hard work he put in the winter, scoring runs in Australia and New Zealand were all undone and unseen.
Malan didn’t have a great domestic season either in 2018 following the ax after the first Test against India. But he comes back into the T20I squad in the Caribbean. No one notices and he doesn’t play even one game in the three-match series.
And in those months between his dropping and return to the T20I side in West Indies, Malan went and played T20 leagues around the world. Be it Mzansi Super League (MSL), Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), or even the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Malan made his presence felt everywhere. He didn’t necessarily make big runs but it was the experience that he gained was vital.
All eyes were on England’s World Cup win and later the drawn Ashes series in the 2019 home summer. But Malan wasn’t even around the squad. He played just one ODI against Ireland to kickstart the cricketing summer. It was his ODI debut and there was no talk of Malan anywhere after that. However, Malan went about his job quietly, accumulating runs across formats. He scored over 1000 runs in the County Championship.
But it was the T20 Blast which might’ve well been the turning point for him. He was the third-highest run-getter as he amassed 490 runs at an average of 40.83 and a strike-rate of 147.59. The Middlesex top-order batsman received a call-up for the five-match T20I series in New Zealand. Yet, with Tom Banton hogging all the limelight, Malan’s return or T20 Blast numbers was overshadowed.
However, he continued to do one thing and that is- let his bat do all the talking. Malan smashed a match-winning ton in New Zealand but with Eoin Morgan scoring a 91 too, Malan’s efforts were overshadowed again. He scored 208 runs in that series, averaging 69.33 and striking at 163.78.
Yet, he wasn’t even in the starting XI in the first two T20Is South Africa as the likes of Roy, Buttler, Bairstow, and Morgan were all fit and available. He played the third T20I at 4.
At home, this summer, he smashed a 54 not out against Pakistan helping them England to chase down 196. But again Morgan’s 66 took the sheen away from Malan’s knock. He scored a fine 66 in the first T20I when everyone else crumbled to give England a fighting total. But the bowlers’ fightback and resilience came to the limelight and Malan’s knock went under the carpet again.
Malan ended the home summer as the leading run-getter in T20Is. He scored 213 runs at an average of 42.60 and a strike-rate of 133.12. No one is even close to him. Yes, Malan is slightly slow to get off the blocks and takes time to fly away. He usually bats at run-a-ball for his first 10 or 15 deliveries. But once he is set, he invariably makes it big and catches up for the slow start.
In fact, in half of his T20Is, Malan has scored 50 or more. His lowest score in T20Is is 7 and has had just four scores of under 20. Moreover, he has all the shots in the book. He has both the power and the touch game as well.
Malan’s current average leaves him third on the all-time list of best T20I averages in the history of the game. He is no Virat Kohli or Babar Azam or any big player but he is someone who is giving them a run for their money in terms of numbers alone.
In fact, he is the joint-fastest to 500 T20I runs (12 innings) and the record for being the fastest to 1000 T20I runs is 26 innings. Dawid Malan needs 318 runs in 10 innings to get there and with the way Malan is going, he could beat that record by some margin.
However, the question is for how long or from where will Malan get a go when England have all their players fit and firing?
As mentioned, he isn’t considered among the top England batsmen in T20I cricket when everyone is fit and available. Ahead of the T20I series against Australia, Eoin Morgan even said Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, and Jonny Bairstow would be England’s preferred T20I top three. But all of Malan’s success has come at 3. Out of the 16 innings, he’s played 12 at 3 and made 566 runs averaging 56.60 at a strike-rate of 150.13.
Malan could be accommodated at No. 4 and Morgan could move down to 5. That could be a possibility. But given Malan’s nature to start slow might work against him. However, there is nothing more Malan can do about it.
All he could do was pile on the runs and he’s done that consistently. To sustain the T20I form for a period of three years is a remarkable feat. But playing him in a mere 16 T20Is has been an error on the part of England’s team management. Malan tops every batting chart in T20Is since his debut and England need to find a way to fit him in.