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Tim David: T20's new superstar arrives in England after IPL breakthrough

Singaporean-Australian freelancer looks to build on his Mumbai Indians form in the Blast and the Hundred

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Tim David will make his Lancashire debut in Friday's Roses match  •  Lancashire Cricket

Tim David will make his Lancashire debut in Friday's Roses match  •  Lancashire Cricket

Tim David faced 86 balls in this year's IPL and hit 16 of them for six. His strike rate of 216.27 was the highest ever in a single IPL season (min. 50 balls faced) and he arrived in Manchester this week ahead of a stint with Lancashire, finding room for his new tag as one of the world's most destructive T20 batters in his luggage on the flight from Mumbai.
He will make his debut on Friday night alongside Liam Livingstone, another breakout star of IPL 2022; Jos Buttler, the competition's leading run-scorer this season, will arrive next week to complete the most powerful batting line-up the Vitality Blast has ever seen. First up is a sold-out Roses match against a Yorkshire side featuring Adil Rashid, Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan in their bowling attack at Emirates Old Trafford.
But for all David's success in India, it was only a month ago that he found himself running drinks for a sixth consecutive game. Signed for INR 8.25 crore (US$1.1 million) in February's auction, David made 1 and 12 in his first two innings as Mumbai Indians started with back-to-back defeats and found himself benched - even when there were two overseas spots available in the starting XI.
"It wasn't ideal," David tells ESPNcricinfo, speaking from his new home ground the day after landing in the UK. "It was just a team balance thing. It being the start of a new cycle, teams were trying to find their best combinations and unfortunately, I found myself out of the side.
"I felt like I was batting as well as I ever have. It was frustrating personally but you can't look at it as anything more than that, and I knew it was my job to be ready to go when I got back in the team. I'm really pleased I took that opportunity when it came."
He took it with both hands, hitting 173 runs off 75 balls in his final six innings to dispel the notion that volatility is inherent in the finisher's role. "I feel like I improved a lot, which was my biggest goal," he says. "You can't control performances on the field but I felt like if I grew as a player over two-and-a-half months there, it would put me in good stead moving forwards and I'm pretty pleased with how I progressed."
David's life has changed immeasurably in the last 12 months, a period which has seen him transform from a promising Big Bash hitter into a globe-trotting T20 gun-for-hire. Aged 26, he does not hold a state contract and has never played a first-class game but is making waves around the world as a middle-order specialist.
"Once you get out into a game, it's keeping it as simple as you can: watch the ball as closely as you can, keep your mind blank, and be aggressive"
Tim David's T20 philosophy
It was this time last year that David was picked as a last-minute replacement player by Lahore Qalandars on the back of a strong BBL for Hobart Hurricanes. "That was my first overseas franchise experience. I did all right for six games and off the back of that, I was close to getting a gig with St Lucia in the CPL," he recalls.
Rather than returning to Australia and facing two weeks of hotel quarantine before flying to the Caribbean, he agreed to join a club in Holland, with the hope of spending the summer there. Ten days into his stint, his agent told him that Surrey were after an overseas player for their final two Blast group games.
David jumped at the chance and stayed at the club for the Royal London Cup, thumping 340 runs in eight 50-over innings with a strike rate of 150.44; that earned him a deal with Southern Brave for the Hundred's knockout stages and he was their match-winner in the final, hitting 15 off 6 balls then running Livingstone out with a direct hit.
His form continued at the CPL and after running the drinks for Royal Challengers Bangalore, he picked up where he left off with Hobart. "I've gone from BBL into PSL into IPL, and now I've landed here in Manchester," he says. "I've been so busy playing franchise tournaments over the last year and having such a fun time."
Underpinning his form has been a clear T20 philosophy. "At its most simple, it's 'get as many runs as you can off as few balls,'" he says. "That changes throughout different situations, pitches and conditions - sometimes, playing in a new league, you've not faced guys before and it's about applying those skills. But once you get out into a game, it's keeping it as simple as you can: watch the ball as closely as you can, keep your mind blank, and be aggressive.
"I've found a bit of a template and a method for batting through the middle of a T20. When I bat in a game, I want to keep that same tempo, that same intent - that's been really important for my game. I don't really want to pigeon-hole myself as a finisher. The progression is to be able to bat in all situations, and try to have a really big impact in winning games for my team."
Kieron Pollard, the first great T20 freelancer and his Mumbai Indians team-mate, is a natural exemplar: similar in role, stature and mindset, and well-versed in the challenges of hopping from one league to another. "Polly has been a pioneer with his career," David says. "I definitely look up to him and I love the brand of attacking cricket that he plays.
"Polly was awesome with me. He's so generous with his time, just talking about power-hitting and batting in the middle order; about staying calm through those periods which you get through experience; about what works in the IPL and then even just prep around games and in the nets - how much you need to do, how to keep yourself fresh throughout a two or three-month tournament, and also when you're playing all year round."
"Tim David, has the baton passed?" Ian Bishop asked rhetorically on commentary during David's 46 not out off 18 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad, with Pollard out of the side after a lean season. "It's obviously nice to receive any compliments, but I'm my own player," David says. "Polly has done it for such a long time. I just tried to learn as much as I could from him… hopefully I can be involved again in the future."
He signed off from the IPL with 34 off 11 against Delhi Capitals, knocking them out and sending his old franchise, RCB, through to the play-offs; hours later, he was on FaceTime to Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell, who had been watching - and celebrating - in the team hotel. "They were pretty excited and it's nice to have those relationships," he says. "I think I've grown so much since I was at RCB last year."
And so to England, where David will spend the next three months: first for Lancashire in the Blast, then back at Southern Brave in the Hundred after he was retained for just £50,000 - undoubtedly the bargain of the competition. He will be joined in late July by his girlfriend Steph Kershaw, a hockey player who will represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games, and is relishing living in an apartment (he is staying with his new team-mate Keaton Jennings) after so many hotel-room nights in biosecure bubbles over the last year.
David's own international career to date has seen him represent Singapore - he does not definitively rule out the prospect of playing at the T20 World Cup qualifier in July - but he is not far away from an Australia call-up that already feels overdue. He has been in contact with selector George Bailey this year, who has confirmed publicly that he is on the radar ahead of Australia's World Cup title defence.
"If that [an Australia call-up] happens, that would be awesome and I'd be so excited for that opportunity - but I'm not thinking about it," he says. "I'm just trying to enjoy what I'm playing. I'm looking forward to playing [against Yorkshire] and I'm really looking forward to these three months and how I'll improve through that period - it's just a really exciting time.
"I've seen a fair bit of the Blast and it's a really strong squad [at Lancashire]. We've got a really powerful batting line-up with Phil Salt and Dane Vilas in there, but the opportunity to be up close with Jos and Livi is obviously really exciting. Hopefully I can pick their brains a little bit and keep trying to improve as much as I can."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98