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T20 World Cup 2021

There isn’t anything to be read from David Malan’s West Indies demotion

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 2 minute read

Among followers of the England T20I side, Dawid Malan has become a divisive figure. The number one ranked T20I batter in the world doesn’t quite get the love or appreciation that a player of his record may be expected to receive.

Just this week, speaking to Wisden, Malan said: “The thing that gets me the most about it all is this: Joe Root’s the No.1 ranked Test player in the world – because he’s an unbelievable cricketer – and it’s all bigged up, and rightly so. I’m ranked No.1 in T20 cricket and people are saying, ‘He doesn’t even deserve his place in the team’.”

His detractors point to his comparatively slow starts and how his record has tailed off somewhat in 2021. His defenders point to what is still a superb overall T20I record. Really, it’s the sort of selection debate that only occurs in sides without many problems to speak of.

Through it all, though, Eoin Morgan has stood firmly behind his man. Malan has been one of just two England T20I ever presents in 2021, clearly identified as Morgan’s preference to bat three at the tournament months out.

There is an argument to made that Malan’s demotion to number seven against West Indies in England’s tournament opener indicates that Morgan’s confidence in Malan is waning.

The reason for Malan’s demotion, as explained by Morgan after the victory, made sense. Having bowled West Indies out for just 55, it was an opportunity to ensure that their Net Run Rate was as high as possible. Given the strength of their group, it is not that unlikely that NRR will determine at least one of the semi-final spots, possibly both. And with more explosive options than Malan available to Morgan, it made sense to relegate Malan down the order.

After the game, Morgan said: “We were [thinking of NRR, and held back Malan], we wanted guys to go after the bowling, but that was difficult today on that pitch.”

England’s approach to sub-60 chases isn’t going to define their eventual T20 World Cup performance, that Morgan wanted to use players more suited to blasting it from ball one is completely understandable. Batting orders in T20 cricket are becoming increasingly flexible. Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim batted as low as eight against Oman before returning to his customary slot at number four in the very next game – while that is an extreme example, fluidity in batting orders reacting to different match scenarios is becoming the norm. There is very little that can be read into England mixing things up for what was a very specific task.

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