Holed up in a hotel room in Perth for two weeks, Dawid Malan has plenty of time to ponder.
Fresh in his thoughts are his recent England exploits, which saw him cement his status as the world’s No 1 T20 batsman.
But Malan also allows his mind to wander to the game’s longest format. Because exactly one year from now, he hopes to be back in Perth — playing in an Ashes Test — rather than quarantining in a room with only a spin bike and treadmill for company.
After shining at T20 level for England, Dawid Malan wants to make his mark on the Test side
Malan is eyeing a spot on next year’s Ashes tour, labelling Test cricket as the ‘pinnacle’
‘It would be great to come back on an Ashes tour,’ Malan tells Sportsmail over Zoom from Western Australia, where he is isolating before moving to Hobart to make his debut in the Big Bash.
‘I’d love to play Test cricket again. It will always be the pinnacle. In T20 cricket, you can hit everything out of the middle but in Tests you have to bat for a whole day and work out different modes of attack.’
To prove his point, Malan insists the ‘fondest memory’ of his career comes from Test cricket. And it also comes from the city where he is temporarily based, as he hit his only Test hundred at the WACA on the 2017-18 Ashes tour.
‘Gosh, it was emotional,’ reflects Malan on that memorable first-innings 140. ‘I got a bit of luck — I was dropped on 92 — and whenever I hit the ball out of the middle it seemed to go for four.
‘But to be able to score a Test hundred against Australia in Australia… I don’t think it will ever get better than that.’
Unfortunately for Malan, that innings was a one-off in England whites and he was dropped seven Tests and eight months later.
‘After the Ashes, I was really positive about where I could take my game,’ he says. ‘But whatever the reasons were — a bit of burnout, a loss of form, trying too hard — I just didn’t play as well as I should have.
‘It was disappointing that it ended so soon after I scored the hundred but I was given 15 Tests to cement my place and you would take that every day.’
Malan was axed after a lean match against India at Edgbaston, with his Test average 27.84.
Malan celebrates after making his century against Australia at the WACA on the 2017-18 tour
Malan has admitted the fondest memory of his career to date was that century at the WACA
National selector Ed Smith suggested his game was ‘better suited to overseas conditions’ to which Malan, with an eye on the Ashes, now grins: ‘Awesome! If he sticks to that, fantastic. A lot of things were said at the time, but I’ve moved on and hopefully I drop that stigma one day.’
Malan has scored 1,337 first-class runs at 51.42 in the last two seasons for Middlesex and Yorkshire, as well as all those white-ball runs for England.
And the 33-year-old adds: ‘Since I’ve been dropped, I’ve gone back to county cricket and scored a lot of runs. Whether that is good enough or not, I don’t know.
‘England have built a really good team. Their batting looks really strong and there are some good young players. I just want to keep scoring runs to put my name in that hat.
‘I don’t think age is a problem. If you are scoring enough runs to be deemed as one of the best 11 to play for England, that’s what it should be about. Whether that’s the way people who actually make the decision see it is a totally different thing.’
Malan’s magnificent unbeaten 99 to seal England’s 3-0 T20 series win over South Africa earlier this month was the 10th time he had passed 50 in his first 19 innings.
Malan hasn’t played Test cricket for England since facing India at Edgbaston in August 2018
It took self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle 25 knocks to achieve that feat, prompting Malan’s team-mate Mark Wood to nickname him the ‘Milky Way Boss’.
‘Hopefully that one doesn’t stick, don’t put that as a headline!’ laughs Malan, who is also known as ‘AC’. Think Italian football.
Malan’s stats, though, are even more ridiculous than Wood’s name for him. He is the first player to cross the 900-point mark in the history of the T20I rankings, having amassed 855 runs at 53.43.
But a modest Malan still plays down his performances — and his No 1 status. ‘It’s a great title to have,’ he says. ‘When I became the No 1 ranked player, I was a bit offish about it. I thought it was a bit strange.
‘To go to South Africa with that tag and perform made me really proud, but it doesn’t guarantee you runs or a spot in this England team, which is unbelievably exciting to just be in.
‘I wouldn’t say I’m in the form of my life, I have hit them better at times. But hopefully I can keep scoring runs and playing in this team and be part of their journey.’
Malan was the star of the show for England in their recent T20 tour of South Africa
Although he is taking nothing for granted, Malan’s place in England’s XI at the T20 World Cup in India next October should be secure.
‘It would be a dream come true to make that squad. To win it would be unbelievable,’ he says, while admitting he was ‘gutted’ to miss out on England’s 50-over World Cup win last year. Peculiarly given his fabulous form, Malan has still only played one ODI. But he wants to feature in that format, dismissing captain Eoin Morgan’s concerns over whether he would have the ‘intensity’ to perform at the World Cup in 2023 at the age of 36. ‘I don’t see that being an issue,’ he says.
Another issue he wants to put to bed is his relationship with Morgan. Last year, the England skipper criticised his then Middlesex team-mate for failing to take a last-ball bye after scoring a hundred in Auckland, thinking he just wanted to stay not out.
That comment sparked speculation of a rift between the pair, but Malan insists: ‘There has never been an issue with me and Morgs. We have never had an argument in 14 years of knowing each other.
Malan’s place in the England XI at the T20 World Cup in India next October should be secure
‘Ultimately, the reason I haven’t always played was because there were better players. But suddenly people said I was not getting picked because Morgs didn’t like me and all this nonsense — it’s been quite funny to read.’
For the next few weeks at least, Malan’s focus is the Big Bash.
A strong showing would enhance his chances of earning a lucrative debut deal in next year’s IPL.
‘Every single cricketer in the world wants to be part of the IPL at some point,’ he adds. ‘I don’t think there will be many more opportunities to put my name in for it.
‘Whether there are spots available or coaches deem me good enough is a different story.’
It is a statement Malan could also be making about his Ashes ambitions.