Dawid Malan interview: 'Being world No. 1 does not mean you can score 40-ball tons every time'
At 33, Dawid Malan will be a late debutant at the Indian Premier League (IPL). Yet, his giant reputation in the shortest format of the game--he is, after all, the ICC's number one ranked T20 batsman in the world--means the expectations are high from Punjab Kings’ latest recruit.
He has achieved a mind boggling T20I average of 50.15 and a strike-rate of 144.31 since making his international debut four years ago. Malan's true ambition lies elsewhere--he wants to be a mainstay in Tests.
In this interview, Malan speaks about juggling his Test ambitions with his T20 prowess, the learnings that he will take from the IPL to the T20 World Cup and his game plan for the league.
You have been the No. 1 T20I batsman for quite some time now. What took you so long to play in the IPL?
First and foremost you have to be good enough to be picked in this tournament. When you don’t play regular international tournaments, it’s tough to break in especially with not a lot of English head coaches in the IPL. That’s why you see a lot of Australians play in general, because there are so many Australian coaches.
Secondly, my primary aim has been to play Test cricket for England and keep doing that. But playing Test cricket for England means you don’t put your name in the IPL because you have to play the first six to eight four-day games of the year which is at the same time as the IPL. That played a massive factor.
You said your primary focus is playing Tests. Batsmen are increasingly straddling formats better...you've got lots of players going straight from T20 to Tests
The times are changing but if you look at the best T20 players in the world, you see the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle. They have all played close to 100 Test matches. They have all mastered the basic fundamentals by playing the longer format of the game for an extended period of time.
I think sometimes the young kids who are watching or playing too much of white ball cricket do not have the basics right; if things don’t go their way they don’t have anything to fall back on. Test cricket is the fundamental (form). The mindset has changed now. Obviously there is more glamour, more finance, less time away from home, less time on the feet. You can see that trend. If you don’t have the fundamentals right, you have nothing to fall back on if you fail in T20 cricket.
How do you plan to handle the huge expectations around you?
The criticism and expectation are part of the game. We are all humans. There will be days when you will play like you haven’t picked the bat ever, and then there will be days when you hit everything out of the park. You have to block out the noise. You should play like you want to and not how people expect you to play.
People may think you are world No. 1, you can score a century off 40 balls every time you bat, which is not the way the game works. People who criticise don’t really realise T20 cricket is not only about putting your foot down and slogging the ball. There are partnerships, there are ways of building the innings. You have to put your ego aside and play for the team.
What will be your batting position in the IPL? No. 3 like you do for England?
People often forget that the only time I don’t open the innings is when I play for England. The No. 3 spot was the only spot that was available. I have opened in domestic competitions too. Gradually I have found myself batting at No. 4 and even 5 for England. Not that I prefer to bat there but I am happy to bat at whichever position the team needs me to bat at.
How important is the IPL with the T20 World Cup in India in a few months?
All the English players who are here realise that this will be an important learning curve. Eoin Morgan spoke about that before we departed for the series against India. We have players who have not played much cricket in India, though they have played in other countries. It (IPL) gives you the opportunity to work with the Indian legends, to improve on certain things, to pick up a few things if you do manage to find a place in the squad for the World Cup. It showed in the way the Indian guys who played in IPL and then made their debut against us. That’s the same for us whether we are 34 or 35, you should be open to learning. Any opportunity to play in these conditions will keep us in good stead at the World Cup.
Any particular Indian player who caught your attention in the last series?
I really enjoyed watching SKY (Suryakumar Yadav) bat. The way he came out in the T20s. And the other leftie Ishan Kishan. Their ball striking ability was phenomenal, they came out without any fear. Didn’t enjoy them scoring that many runs against us and winning the games. They are examples of how big IPL is in the development of the players. You get to play bowlers like Jofra Archer regularly.