A penny for Dawid Malan’s thoughts as he watched from the sidelines at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in November as a veteran England hitter guided a successful run chase against Pakistan with an unflappable 52 not out of 49 balls.
Ben Stokes, the Red Adair of England run-chasers, was, of course, the guy in question. He had been airlifted back into the T20I team after an 18-month exile, and he had once again demonstrated that he has the best temperament for big games.
However, Malan’s name should have been all over that match scenario. With a modest target of 138 to reach and two early wickets lost, the visitor had every reason and right to begin his task carefully, as would have been expected of a man with a demonstrated, previous world No. 1-ranked record at No. 3 throughout 44 of his 55 T20I appearances for England.
Malan, however, was not given the ideal resolution. A groyne injury sustained during England’s nail-biting group-stage victory over Sri Lanka ended his season, and despite thinking he had done enough to warrant a comeback for the match against Pakistan, it was not to be.
According to Malan, it was difficult. “When we first started talking, we agreed to merely treat the symptoms. However, the day before the World Cup final, I ended up having a scan, which I wasn’t too thrilled about since I thought I was fine.
However, when Jos Buttler and Mottie [Matthew Mott] brought me in after the training session, they warned me that there was still a danger even if I had passed all the tests.
The problem, according to Malan, was the size of the MCG and the potential for aggravating not only his ailment but also that of Mark Wood, another significant player who England decided to do without despite his apparent recovery from the hip flexor injury that had kept him out of the India semi-final.
“Even if you’re devastated by the outcome, as a cricket player you sometimes have to put your ego aside while playing at the MCG, where every run would have mattered in a World Cup final. It’s about the team winning the World Cup, not about putting your own self-importance before the team.
Even though it’s a bitter pill to swallow, the correct choice was made. We were able to win the World Cup by not putting two players’ fitness at danger. What follows is history.” The present state of that history reveals that England is the first men’s team to win both the 50-over and 20-over World Cups.
While Malan did not participate in the historic 2019 campaign, he has been a crucial part of the T20 team in the interim, including the team that lost in the UAE semi-final 12 months prior to the MCG victory—a campaign, according to Malan, that was met with much higher expectations than the one that just ended.