In Defence of Dawid Malan: Why He Should Be In England's T20 XI

Updated: Feb 19

It's not every day you have to write a piece to defend a player who is currently ranked at the top of the ICC rankings, however, here we are.

I've never been a huge backer of the ICC rankings, just like any ranking system they have their flaws. Do I believe Malan is a better batsman than Babar Azam? (currently ranked 2nd), no I don't, but they are based on performance and as such they have certain merits.

If you follow Inside Edge Cricket on Twitter, you'll probably know that I'm a fan of Dawid Malan. I'm no Middlesex or Yorkshire fanboy, but I do appreciate good players who perform consistently. I don't appreciate players being rewarded based on historical performance or because of the name on the back of their shirt.

As we approach the T20 series in South Africa, publications are releasing their predicted and preferred starting XI's, you can read ours HERE, where all 8 writers chose Dawid Malan. However do a littler searching online and you'll find our consensus to be unique, in fact only one writer at Wisden elected to have the #1 ranked T20 batsmen in the world in the lineup.

So why does Dawid Malan consistently fail to get recognition?

It's certainly not because of his recent performances. He was arguably the most consistent batsmen for England in the recent T20 series against Australia averaging 43 with a strike rate just a tick under 140.

Malan holds a 48.71 average in international T20 cricket over the course of his career. Now I hear you all screaming that averages don't matter, and I politely disagree. Averages don't matter if you score them at a consistently slow pace. However, Malan's average is accompanied by a strike rate of 146.67, that's nearly 10 points higher than someone like Jonny Bairstow.

In fact, his pace of scoring is the most frequent argument I hear from people. He scores too slowly, he takes too long to settle. A strike rate is a judge of how quickly someone scores in relation to how many balls they've faced. It's a good judge of ability in this format. So in relation to the other top T20 batsmen, how quickly does Malan score?

Well, let's take Babar Azam, considered one of the better T20 batsmen in the world. He scores at a rate of 130.01, so 16 points slower than Malan. Aaron Finch scores at about 10 points more. K.L Rahul scores at 146, so exactly the same. Eoin Morgan scores at 138. Scoring rate is not an issue when it comes to Malan, despite how often this narrative is pushed.

The second thing you often hear is that Malan doesn't have an IPL deal. That's hard to argue with because at the end of the day he doesn't have a deal. He's just signed a deal with the Hobart Hurricanes to play in the Big Bash, and he was tipped to join CSK in 2020 before people realised they were unable to add any more foreign players to their squad.

Dawid Malan should be in the IPL. Every single year you read that he will fetch a nice price, that a team is willing to overpay for a left-handed top-order bat who strikes around 146. It hasn't happened, and there is no statistical reason for that when looking at who does get selected and how they go on to perform.

According to CricViz, Dawid Malan has had the greatest batting impact for England in T20 internationals since 2016, he also has the 2nd lowest false shot percentage (behind Jos Buttler) since 2018. He scores at 8.30 runs per over against pace with an average of 117.66 and at 9.62 runs per over against spin with an average of 34.22.

So what we're saying here is that Malan scores plenty of runs against both pace and spin, at a good click and has consistently performed whenever he's put on the T20 shirt for England. Yet some people want to leave him out entirely.

England have an embarrassment of riches at the top of the order. They somehow need to squeeze Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler and Joe Root into three places. Instantly Joe Root is the one on the outside looking in there. With an average of 35 and a scoring rate around 126, he simply can't be prioritised over the others mentioned.

People talk about Root's 2016 performance. It was incredible, it was also four years ago. Root has a lot on his plate and I don't think anyone would argue that T20 is his strongest format. His test performances have dipped significantly recently, so freeing him up to concentrate on his test and ODI form is the best solution for Root and for England.

So you have Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler. The simplest solution would be to move Jos down the order, but then that ignores his success at the top of the order where he has been historically exceptional.

Jason Roy averages 24 with a strike rate of 146. So instantly you think he could make way considering his stats. However, you look at his recent form for England he has scores of 67, 69, 70 and 40). It's hard to drop a man with form like that but maybe his injury which kept him out of the summer T20's and which opened the door for Malan means he has to now wait his turn to get back into the lineup.

Jonny Bairstow had a fantastic 2019 IPL season but was dropped from the Sunrisers starting lineup in 2020 for the sake of the team. In his last 4 internationals, he scored 0, 8, 9 and 55. It's not an easy decision to make, but Dawid Malan has every right to believe he's deserving of his place above both Bairstow and Roy. You can certainly argue that case based on statistics and recent performances.

It's going to be interesting to see how England handle this situation, but for my money, Dawid Malan has earned his spot in the England lineup and should feel aggrieved if after performing to a consistently high level, he's forced out by others who don't have his record or form to point to.

I think it's about time we started to appreciate Dawid Malan just a little more.


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