Dawid Malan: 'I'm not there to please anyone, I'm there to score runs'

Despite another winning knock, Brook's World Cup omission keeps the scrutiny on his place

Cameron Ponsonby
Dawid Malan anchored England's chase, England vs New Zealand, 1st T20I, Chester-le-Street, August 30, 2023

Dawid Malan anchored England's chase at Chester-le-Street  •  Getty Images

A bullish Dawid Malan doesn't believe his place in the ODI World Cup is under threat from Harry Brook, saying "I don't know where that comparison's come from…I bat top three and he bats four, five, six."
Malan was speaking moments after England had wrapped up a convincing seven-wicket win over New Zealand, a victory that had seen the 35-year-old left-hander play a major role with 54 runs off 42 balls. After a slow start, in which Malan made only four runs off his first ten balls, he went on to compile yet another match-defining half-century in an England shirt. Since 2019, only Jos Buttler (13) has made more T20I fifties for England's than Malan's haul of 11 in 48 innings.
Furthermore, in T20Is, he is the leading run-scorer in the same period, with 1,614 runs compared to Buttler's 1,453. By way of comparison, Moeen Ali in third has just 841. It is no understatement to say that over the last four years, Malan has been nothing short of a white-ball marvel.
And so he has every right to be confident of his worth in the England set-up. His opportunities in the 50-over format have been far more limited, with a solitary ODI against Ireland in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup. Since then, however, he has the best ODI average of any English batter to have played three innings or more (57.30), and has scored the most ODI centuries of any Englishman in that time (4).
In spite of that, however, Malan admitted that his overwhelming emotion after making England's provisional World Cup squad was "definitely relief".
"You look at the amount of depth we've got in English cricket…to get the call was extremely satisfying," he said. "I know there are people who've missed out and I have so much sympathy for them.
"From a personal point of view, I was exceptionally pleased to get that call, because I felt I've worked really hard to get in that squad. Every opportunity I've been given in 50 overs in my last four or five series, I've gone and had to score the runs, doing it the tough way to get in there."
But, much to his awareness and annoyance, Malan's place in the team remains a constant debate. Talking points vary from his T20I starts being too slow (Wednesday's innings was true to type), to his age (he turns 36 on Sunday), to his temperament (Eoin Morgan famously chastised him for not running a bye off the last ball of his unbeaten century at Napier in 2019). There's also the underlying sense that he's a second-teamer who refuses to get dropped. It's big competition time now, so pick the big boys. The problem with all those complaints, however, is he also scores too many runs.
"That's what I'm picked for," Malan said. "To score runs and win games. I am not there to please anyone, I'm there to score runs for Jos [Buttler] and Motty [Matthew Mott] and contribute to wins.
"I feel like I have done that consistently over the last five or six years, whatever it is in white-ball cricket. You get criticised, and that is part and parcel of the game. You might not be the favourite of the crowds, and the fans, and the commentators and the press, and everyone else, but all I can do is score runs when you get given the opportunity. Touch wood, I do that more often than not, and hopefully I continue to do it to keep the faith that the leadership have shown in me."
Along with Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy, Malan is one of three potential players that could make way if England opt to u-turn and select Brook for the final World Cup squad. It would be a cruel blow to any of the three, but England have proven in the past that they're not afraid to make such decisions: first, with the selection of Jofra Archer in place of David Willey on the eve of the 2019 World Cup and, most recently, with the omission of Roy for the recent T20 World Cup win in Australia.
A fourth, less likely option, would be that England opt to rejig the balance of their squad and replace a seamer with Brook, but that would require a change in philosophy, with England strongly believing that a large of arsenal of quicks - including the as-yet uncapped Gus Atkinson - will be necessary for a tournament in which they will play nine matches in eight cities across little more than a month.
"I think you always have to score runs when you play international cricket," Malan responded, as to whether he felt the need to be looking over his shoulder. "It's a provisional squad but, from my understanding, it's up to us to score runs to stay in it. I think it would be tough, two weeks before we are flying, especially with people potentially resting for the Ireland series, to suddenly lose their place. But that is cricket and that's the way life goes. Nothing is ever guaranteed until you stand on that plane…I know people compare me to Brooky but I bat top three and he bats 4, 5, 6, so I don't know where that comparison's from."
There is a fine line between confidence and delusion, and while Malan has every right to be confident that he will make the final 15 for the World Cup, if not the starting XI itself, the difference between three and four in the batting line-up won't be what saves him. If England trusted Brook to bat No.3 in Test cricket against Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, they'll be more than happy to trust him to do the same in white-ball cricket against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
"I don't know who will get the nod at the top of the order," Malan concluded. "Hopefully I can score as many runs as I can in the opportunities I get here, I'm not sure how many games I'll play, but when I do, hopefully I score runs and the runs put pressure on the selectors and the guys to pick an XI and keep me in it. I try not to look too far ahead, and score as many runs as I can in each opportunity."
And on that metric, at least, Malan continues to be perfect.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby