By Graham Hardcastle
Yorkshire winter recruit Dawid Malan may not be able to display his star quality with the bat at present, but he has provided an idea of what might be to come for White Rose fans in a revealing insight into how one of England’s most destructive T20 batsmen goes about constructing an innings.
Malan struck a sensational unbeaten 103 off 51 balls against New Zealand in November and, with hopes the Vitality Blast and World T20 could still go ahead later this year, he reveals the preparation and planning required to be successful in the 20-over format as well as some helpful home training tips during lockdown.
Q: How do you go about batting in the powerplay?
DM: I’m pretty fortunate that my role doesn’t really change from innings to innings. I wouldn’t say it’s easier batting in the top three than anywhere else, but it’s easier in the sense I can have a pretty settled game plan.
When you bat at four, five and six, you can face a different situation every game in a five-match series.
The most important thing is preparation. Do your homework on the opposition – what bowlers’ change-ups are, what do they go to under pressure.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you will score runs, but at least you can be confident that you are one step ahead.
My initial plan as an opener centres around having six overs to bat. Because of that, I feel I can take six to eight balls to get in.
One thing people don’t seem to understand about T20 is you have a lot more time than you think.
I always think: ‘I’m only ever two shots away from being ahead of the game’. That’s the thing that relaxes me at the crease.
I could be one off five balls but go four, four and be nine off seven or even six, six and be 13 off seven. That reverses the pressure.
My aim is to play strong cricket shots in the first few balls. Then, once I’ve got used to conditions and how the bowlers are bowling, I’ll start to expand and can maybe get the team to 55 or 60 off the powerplay.
Q: Once the powerplay is over, and more fielders are allowed outside of the inner ring, how do you change your mindset and gameplan?
DM: If you have a good powerplay, it allows you to keep that pressure on from overs seven to 12, which I believe is the most important period.
I actually make a conscious decision to put my foot down that bit more from overs seven to 12.
If you can score a lot of runs when they usually bowl their spinners and don’t want to go back to their best bowlers, it means they have to change plans which can suit you.
They will have to bring back their better bowlers earlier and expose weaker bowlers at the death.
Q: What is your plan to exploit the death overs?
DM: The key is to stick to your strengths, where you hit to best.
It’s when you get out of that bubble that you start racking up dots or miss-hitting.
If I’m still batting in that last five overs, that’s an unbelievable time to bat because you should be 50 plus at least and used to conditions. It’s just about cashing in.
Q: What advice would you give to a junior batting in T20?
DM: Stick to the basics and try and play strong cricket shots as much as you can. Also, keep your shape. When you do that, you actually score a lot quicker.
Once you’ve got the momentum with you, it’s about taking calculated risks at the right time.
When I started my career, I would try and go boundary and then single to get off strike. But now, if you can go boundary, boundary, boundary, the game changes massively in your favour.
I’ve been fortunate to play with some fantastic players. We had Brendon McCullum at Middlesex, and he’s one of the best to learn from. Eoin Morgan, similar.
I’m still learning and have nowhere near cracked it. I’m not sure I ever will. But the lessons I’ve learnt from those guys are to keep trying to change the game in a positive way.
Q: There will be thousands of young batsmen itching to hit balls at the moment. Are there any stay at home drills you can recommend?
DM: I do a lot of drills with tennis balls. The best thing would be to get your parents to throw at you, but if not there are many ways you can improvise.
One is to get into your stance, trap the ball between your chin and chest and drop it and hit. There are a lot of videos knocking around on social media at the moment.
One thing to work on is making sure you hit the ball and make it bounce as close to you as possible. That works on making sure your weight’s over the ball and ensures you are hitting it as late as possible.