Uncapped Dawid Malan delighted with second England call-up
New England call-up Dawid Malan wondered if international cricket had passed him by – until an unexpected answerphone message from selector James Whitaker proved otherwise.
Malan had begun to suspect that,12 months on from his previous call-up into a Twenty20 squad ended in disappointment at being left out of the team, that was perhaps as near as he was going to get to representing his country.
But the 29-year-old Middlesex batsman is back in the frame, initially at the very venue where his hopes were dashed last July, this time significantly the oldest of five uncapped inclusions in a 16-man squad to cover three fixtures against South Africa.
If he needed any inspiration that you are never too old he need look no further than the evidence of the past weekend – in which Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman, just two years Malan's junior, followed up his international debut 11 days earlier by hitting a memorable century in a shock Champions Trophy final victory over India at The Oval.
That example is not lost on Malan, who has had to work hard for recognition via Middlesex, England Lions and most recently the inaugural North v South series in the United Arab Emirates.
"It's no one's right to play international cricket, to represent your country," he said.
Malan was born in Roehampton but, of South African descent, was then brought up in the Western Cape before switching hemispheres again to make his home in England a decade ago.
Reflecting on his near miss last summer, he said: "I definitely thought I'd missed the boat – being involved, not playing, and then not being involved in anything after that.
"My ambition, my dream is to play for England. So I hope I can get the cap this time."
If he does, he will be hoping it is merely the start of his new era.
"If you take your opportunity, there's no reason you can't be pushing other players to become a permanent fixture in the team," Malan said.
"I want to play all forms of cricket for England."
The dashing left-handed opener knows it will be far from easy to dislodge Jason Roy or Alex Hales at the top of England's white-ball order – despite the former's loss of form in the Champions Trophy.
"You never wish bad on people, single out people who aren't scoring runs," he said.
"I think Jason is a fantastic player, and he's going to get through with flying colours.
"I just have to score as many runs as possible, and hope that's enough to push people out – whether they're in or out of form."
Malan's circuitous route to the brink of international cricket has taken many turns, including a second Pakistan Super League campaign last winter – which culminated in victory in the Lahore final with Peshawar Zalmi.
He faced one of the toughest decisions of his life to take up that engagement, along with fellow England Twenty20 hopeful Chris Jordan, as international cricketers returned to Pakistan – albeit in a domestic league - despite security fears which have kept touring teams away since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus.
After Pakistan's victory over India on Sunday, captain Sarfraz Ahmed spoke of his hopes the profile may persuade international teams to travel again.
Malan is uniquely placed to have an informed opinion, and admits he is far from sure of the feasibility as yet.
"I think a lot of steps will have to take place for (international) cricket to get back to Pakistan," he said.
"You want to see it happen, but there's going to have to be measures in place, have to be a certain safety element involved.
"You don't want international teams to be targeted, or be a target of any threat. So I think for cricket to go back the threat has to be minimal and the security measures in place of the highest standard to even consider it."
Malan was there for less than two days, and thinks the longer the tour the more difficult it will be.
"I think the toughest bit would be just being confined to a hotel," he added.
"If you're there for a two-week tour and sat in one hotel the whole time, I think it would become quite hard work.
"It was a fantastic experience, something you look back on and remember forever.
"The whole lead-up to it, and the way it happened, some players pulling out, some not, and the chats we had among one another – whether we're going to go or not – it's hard to describe the feeling...
"It's never easy when people are laying down the threats in front of you, what can and can't happen – and you're looking at security and thinking 'Wow, if you need this amount, is it actually worth going? Is it actually worth bringing cricket back to Pakistan?'
"But I'm pleased I did it in the end, and I'd probably do it again if the opportunity came around."