In the lead up to the 2016 domestic season, ecb.co.uk will be running a series of features with all 18 first-class counties. England Lion Dawid Malan is relishing the chance to skipper Middlesex in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Dawid Malan has spent the winter breaking new ground with England Lions, and has a fresh challenge to tackle on his return to the domestic scene with Middlesex.
The 28-year-old averaged over 50 in both the one-day and Twenty20 series against Pakistan A either side of Christmas as he finished the winter as the Lions’ leading run-scorer.
Now Malan has been charged with reviving Middlesex’s formats in the NatWest T20 Blast – since winning the competition in 2008 they have failed to progress to the knock-out stages and have finished rock bottom of the South Group in the last two seasons.
Along with Eoin Morgan and Tim Murtagh, Malan is one of only three players remaining at Lord’s from Middlesex’s last successful pursuit of silverware eight years ago, and is keen to bring the good times back.
“We’re still in the process of chatting about our team targets; obviously we want to be trying to win every tournament we play in,” Malan told ecb.co.uk.
Based on their white-ball form in recent years that may seem optimistic, but there are plenty of reasons to be positive.
Last season’s runner-up finish in the Specsavers County Championship was the club’s best placing since 1995, and many expect Middlesex to pose the main threat to Yorkshire’s hat-trick bid.
And in the 20-over format, the club have signalled their intent by landing the highly-sought signing of Brendon McCullum, who is likely to light up plenty of Friday nights in NW8.
On his chance to lead the side in the sprint format, Malan added: “I’m extremely excited – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
“For Angus [Fraser] and the club to put their faith in me and give me the opportunity is fantastic from that point of view.
“We’ve got a good squad and hopefully we can perform better this year because we’ve definitely underperformed with the players we’ve had in the squad.
“My challenge is to try and find a way of playing that’s going to bring the best out of us. It’s an exciting challenge and one that I’m looking forward to.”
Trying to steer a side who have been well off the pace two years running towards Finals Day is a big ask, but at least McCullum – who smashed 2,140 T20 international runs for New Zealand before exiting the international scene in style earlier this year – is unlikely to need much captaining.
“He’ll score his 150 off fifty rocks every game and make my life a lot easier,” joked Malan. “To play with someone like him, and tap into his mind and how he sees things is absolutely fantastic.
“We want to be playing with players like this; we want to be tapping into their knowledge. From a club point of view, to be able to have a superstar like Brendon McCullum in the team and bring more people in the crowd will be fantastic.”
Malan’s star turn for England Lions came seven years after he was last involved with the England Performance Programme, but having waited for his Lions debut the left-hander was determined to make his mark.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it – it wasn’t what I was expecting,” he added.
“I was expecting it to be a lot stricter in terms of how we train and how we managed from a playing point of view, but the way Andy [Flower] and Graham Thorpe and the other guys who were involved ran it was fantastic and I learnt a hell of a lot about my batting from that point of view.
“Any county cricketer, you always say that you want to play international cricket, but you never really know until you’ve played at a higher level to judge where you’re at.
“So from that point of view it’s nice to see that the game that I’ve got can perform at that one step higher.
“I’ve got a few things I need to work on and improve on to help me get the one step further if I’m fortunate enough to get that far.
“From a personal point of view you want to improve on what you’ve done the year before. My main objective is to score as many runs as I can for Middlesex and if I keep improving anything can happen.”
For anything, read an England call-up, but as Malan puts it: “I wouldn’t say I’m thinking about it – what will be, will be.”