On Dawid Malan...

Let me start by saying that I do not want Dawid Malan dropped.

His record in T20Is, with the 51.16 average, and 145.72 strike-rate in 22 games is brilliant. Like, super brilliant!

Nor, when I write this piece, am I saying that he is the only member of this England side I will question. Jason Roy has been in poor lick, England are yet to have a role defined for Ben Stokes, the second spin option is in doubt, and the death bowling needs work.

And, I am a rubbish cricketer.

I cannot fathom how difficult it is to play for England, and when I write my concerns about a player, I do so not because I think them rubbish, but because I find it interesting to discuss their record, and what England's best XI is.

So, onto my point. There is just one point, which encompass a number of arguments about t20 cricket, England, and Malan himself.

It revolves around this-

Does Malan fit into England's white-ball strategy?

By this, I mean that England, ever since the disastrous 2015 Cricket World Cup, have seen white-ball cricket for what it truly is: scoring quickly.

I know this is obvious, but look at India, who refuse to understand it.

They have phenomenal players.

Be it anchors, in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Shikhar Dhawan and (more on this) KL Rahul. They also have hitters, with Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and Suryakumar Yadav (aka SKY). India's top six could be as thrilling as:







Instead, they play far too many anchors, ruining their chances of winning!

KL Rahul, whose 2018 IPL strike-rate was 158.41, at an average of 54.91, ends up saying that "strike-rates are very, very overrated"...

India's negative t20 philosophy has seen them ruin a brilliant player. In the 2020 IPL, Rahul still averaged 55.83, but his strike-rate was just 129.34!

In playing one, or even zero anchors, England have t20 cricket spot on!!

This is best seen in the case of Jos Buttler. Given the abundance of white-ball openers England have, and Buttler's rare ability to come in and score quickly in the middle overs, the obvious thing to do is to bat him in the middle.

But that is conservative, and negative.

England want Buttler to face as many of their 120 balls as possible, which means he has to open.

It also explains the persistence with Jason Roy, despite his poor form, which he appears to have resolved.

In a t20, the most valuable part of the innings is the six over powerplay. All t20 analysts will agree that you have to score in the powerplay; indeed one of the theories behind the failure of teams to win batting first recently is the conservatism in the powerplay.

Roy, even out of form, looks to hammer the ball in the powerplay, to maximise runs without care of dismissal. This will not always work, but it is the aggressive option.

Now, onto Malan.

Infamously Malan has slow starts. Often, this is poorly argued by his detractors. Everybody, even including the t20 GOAT Chris Gayle, starts slow. Being 5 from 5, or even 10 from 10, is normal.

The issue with Malan comes in two parts though.

He will often be 20 from 20, before he really gets going, and often in the powerplay.

Now, when pitches stay true (read flat!) in New Zealand, or South Africa, the importance of the powerplay is less. But when in India, where pitches die toward the end of an innings (see the second T20I, and the painful images of Stokes slogging and missing everything, and yes, I know, Stokes shouldn't be the finisher, especially as his two IPL hundreds have come when he's come in in the powerplay...) the powerplay is much more important.

And England cannot afford to have Malan fail to take advantage of it when they lose Roy or Buttler early.

In the first game, Buttler went slow, and Roy took advantage, with 24 off 15.

In the second, Buttler went first ball, Roy, despite his swings, made just 20 off 17, with Malan 18 off 18. England did not take advantage. In the third, despite Roy struggling for 9 off 12, Buttler, with 43 off 17, took advantage (and by the time the powerplay was done, the game was settled).

If England lose an early wicket, and the other opener fails to go quickly, Malan's slowness in the powerplay is a major issue, because it is one of the key times in which to score runs.

Now, the other issue with the slow start, is when Malan doesn't go on.

I accept that slow start's are not always awful. Anchors often do so, and they often catch up. And, cricketers are human. I don't expect every player to get runs every game.

You may point out that even Virat Kohli had a very slow start yesterday, being 28 off 29, before he went on to add 49 from his last 17.

Malan, when he accelerates, does so at similar pace. Take his innings in the first t20 against Australia last summer, where he was 26 off 23, and finished 66 from 43, with 40 from his last 20, as England snuck a two-run win.

However, when Malan fails to accelerate, the results are concerning.

In the Big Bash, with the Hobart Hurricanes needing to win their final game, against bottom-placed Melbourne Renegades to qualify for the finals, Malan made 34 off 36.

The Hurricanes were chasing 151, and Malan came in at 29-2 from 3.1, with the rate going okay. He added 51 with D'Arcy Short, who also batted slowly, and when Malan fell, the Hurricanes were 91-4 from 14.2, back behind in the game.

You can easily tell me you don't care about his Big Bash form and that he does it for England, and I quite agree, he has so far. But the bowling in the Big Bash is weaker than international level, so the failure in that game is concerning, even if he has not yet failed for England.

Why is it, I ask though, that after bossing it in South Africa, he went to the Big Bash and made 265 runs in 10 games at a strike-rate of 113.73? Why is it, that despite his phenomenal international record, his domestic t20 stats are weaker, with an average still at a good 33.24, but the strike-rate lower at 128.38?

In a recent Cricinfo piece, Matt Roller tired to answer this, looking at the better pitches at international level, the confidence Malan can have in England's line-up, his prep time for international bowlers, and his luck (being selected when in form).

Jarrod Kimber, in one of his video essays, also explores this question, and leans towards the luck of playing when in form answer.

Now, I do not have the answer. I think it is probably a combination of factors, also including that when Malan made his debut in t20 in 2006, 140 was a par score, and the expectation of batters was different, which unfairly drags his strike-rate down in the domestic arena.

But, I believe his international stats will regress. As we see currently in India, he cannot be in form forever.

And so what if he averages 45, at a strike-rate of 140?

Okay, right.

But what about 40 at 135? Yeah, if everyone else fires.

35 at 130? 30 at 120?

The risk is, that should Malan lose form in this England side, he will be a massive burden. T20 cricket is all about really fast scoring. 30 off 15 is a better innings than 50 off 30, something England have grasped, and India, as alluded to previously, have not!

And my doubt about Malan, is that with his low strike-rate early on, which is especially painful in the powerplay, if his T20I record comes closer to his t20 record, England are in trouble.

But, this is not to say he should be dropped.

To suggest, that after three 'meh' innings in India, he is no good, is obviously nonsense.

Anyone suggesting Malan's place is in danger, is wrong!

He should play the rest of this series, and the next, and the next.

I cannot stress that enough!!

I like backing players. I did so with Ben Stokes in the t20 side, with Buttler in tests, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence as well, and even on Moeen Ali.

My point is, that this article is not me saying that Dawid Malan is awful, and should be immediately axed.

No. He is rightly in the side, because he has been exceptional for 20 odd games for England. However, he is not flawless, and I am still not sure he is the complete t20 batter that his record suggests.

That was the point of this piece. Not to bring out an axe, but simply to explain myself, as I am accused of wielding an axe.

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