Speaking on the Sky Cricket Show, former England batsman Kevin Pietersen said he felt that Dawid Malan isn’t in England’s best top four for a T20 World Cup in India.

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Malan is currently the No.1 ranked T20I batsman in the world, and of all England batsmen with more than 200 runs, he has the best average and the best strike-rate in T20I cricket. He also holds the record for the fastest hundred by an England batsman in the format.

However, his preferred method, which sees him regularly start slowly before accelerating, the discrepancy between his international and domestic T20 records, and England’s plethora of top-order options have meant he has constantly come under scrutiny. Ben Stokes, one of England’s greatest modern cricketers, is currently being used by England as a No.6, despite a stellar record at the top of the order in the Indian Premier League, and it is the need to make the most of the all-rounder that has spurred Pietersen to suggest he should move up the line-up for England in T20Is.

“I’d move [Stokes] up the order,” Pietersen said, speaking before Stokes’ 52-ball 99 in the second ODI against England, made at No.3. “I’d bat him at four. Bairstow is an opening batsman in the one-day game as we’ve seen, bats right at the top of the order, and having watched the display that he put on in Pune the other night in the one-dayer, it got me to a decision that for a T20 World Cup in India, I believe that he should be batting at three, Stokes should be batting at four.”

Pietersen spoke of the difficulty of scoring boundaries in the middle overs in T20 cricket in India, citing his experience playing for England Legends in the recently concluded Road Safety World Series.

“Malan is a touch and feel player,” he said. “He plays the short ball well. But when he’s got to go after the spinners, and when the pace is slowed down in the middle overs in the subcontinent, it’s difficult to bat, it’s difficult to continue hitting those boundaries, it’s difficult to continue hitting those sixes. And having experienced it in the last couple of weeks, I know exactly how hard it is to do that. So, as difficult a decision as it will be and it should be, I’d bat Bairstow at three and I’d have Stokes at 4.”

Nasser Hussain pointed to the fact that Malan, until this tour, had never played in India, and had done little to answer questions about his suitability to the conditions in the series. However, he also stressed that leaving him out would be a “big call”.

“First of all, those stats are absolutely phenomenal, and people will say that it’s absolutely ridiculous that you’re questioning a bloke with an average of 50 and a strike-rate of 144. But you’ve got to remember where those stats have been formulated,” he said. “They’ve been done in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England and [only] recently in India.

“Kevin’s point is a very good one. When there was spin early on in those four games, he didn’t use the Powerplay, and in the last game, on a belter of a pitch that came on, he played his natural game against the seamers. What a lot of people have said is they want to promote Stokes, but not who they’re leaving out, and that’s the big issue. The one that is vulnerable is Malan, and he’s the one with the best stats in the side at the moment, so it would be a big call.”

Pietersen pointed out that overall stats only tell part of the story, and also clarified that Malan would be a good inclusion for a tournament in Australia, where the 2022 T20 World Cup will be played.

“He’s not the one with the best stats in India, and that’s the point here,” Pietersen said. “If it was in Australia, where he could use the pace and play the pull shot and hit balls over extra cover and he can glide balls and angle balls, then no problem. But I know how hard it is to hit sixes and how hard it is to hit fours in the middle overs against quality spinners in the subcontinent in the shortest form of the game.”