Peshawar Zalmi's Dawid Malan returns to PSL with England comeback on his mind

Batsman grateful for the opportunities his franchise gave him in 2017 as he went on to play for England. He is back for a second chance

Cricket - Ashes test match - Australia v England - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 14, 2017. England's Dawid Malan celebrates with team mate Jonny Bairstow after reaching his century during the first day of the third Ashes cricket test match.    REUTERS/David Gray

Dawid Malan will return to action in the Pakistan Super League on Friday for the first time since he was among the small group of overseas players heralded as heroes for going to play in Pakistan in 2017.

He is happy to be back in the bosom of the Peshawar Zalmi family, as they begin their bid to reclaim the title they handed back to Islamabad United – in Malan’s absence – last year.

Back then, the left-handed batsman had other pressing concerns. Namely, establishing himself in the middle order of England’s Test side.

He was making a pretty good fist of it, too. England surrendered the Ashes last winter, but Malan’s impact on the side, as he made three half-centuries and a sparkling ton in Perth, was a ray of light on a bleak tour.

When last year’s PSL was on, he was playing the New Zealand leg of England’s winter tour, where he added another half-century to his tally.

The fact he is back plying his trade in the PSL now, though, shows he has fallen from international view, after summer struggles against Pakistan and India last year.

So, instead of playing in the international cricket stadium bearing his name, as England did in St Lucia last week, Malan will be taking instructions from Daren Sammy, Peshawar’s captain, instead.

It is understandable Malan would rather be half the world away, in the Caribbean, but he has not lost sight of what the PSL has done for him.

“I’d obviously rather be with England at the moment, but playing for Peshawar Zalmi was a massive stepping stone for me to play for England,” Malan said.

“It allowed me to play on the biggest stage, in front of massive crowds, with the pressure of being an overseas player, which is pretty much as close as it gets to playing international cricket.

“The lessons that I learnt with them were absolutely fantastic, so to be able to come back and join the team after missing last year, is fantastic for me.”

If he is immediately restored to the starting XI for Peshawar’s tournament opener, he will be facing the same opponents as when he left off last time.

Quetta Gladiators, who will be in opposition at 8pm on Friday at the Dubai International Stadium, lost out to Peshawar in the 2017 final, which was the first match in the T20 league to be played back home in Pakistan.

Back then, Malan was still some months away from playing for England. He says playing in the PSL as an unheralded overseas player was a sharp learning curve, and he admits he struggled to adapt at first.

“That was the tough bit about it,” Malan said. “At one stage, Haris Sohail, who was No 3 for Pakistan, was sitting on the bench and I was playing instead of him.

“You are thinking, ‘I’m quite lucky these rules are in place that I have to be playing here, because otherwise you are taking a spot from a fantastic player like that’.

“That pressure did get to me. You try to play a different way to what comes naturally. You try to be Chris Gayle or Brendon McCullum, when actually your game is suited to something different.

“It taught me the lessons of sticking to your strengths, being who you are, rather than trying to be someone you are not.”

GROS ISLET, SAINT LUCIA - FEBRUARY 12:  Enngland captain Joe Root at the end of Day Four of the Third Test match between the West Indies and England at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground on February 12, 2019 in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)

While Malan has been busy preparing for his PSL return in recent weeks, England's indifference in Test cricket has continued, with a 2-1 Test defeat in West Indies.

Their batting continues to misfire, the middle order unsettled, which gives hope to those on the fringes – even those recently discarded.

“My ambitions are still to play for England,” Malan said. “After [last] winter, I have only had five international innings after my breakthrough into New Zealand and Australia.

“Even in the Twenty20s I have not been part of anything since, so from that point of view it is obviously disappointing, but I feel like I have shown what I can do.

“Five innings ago in Test cricket I passed 50, and I passed 50 in my last T20 innings, so I don’t think I did that badly.

“There are spots up for grabs and there are opportunities if you start well. At the end of the day, it is going to be about weight of runs.

“You can’t score a couple of 50s and expect to be picked for England. You have to score big hundreds.”