The England set-up were blindsided when the ICC confirmed on Sunday that a change in the qualification process had been ratified – but not announced publicly – in November 2021. Pakistan, the hosts, will be joined by the other seven highest finishers at the World Cup, with England dead last after five defeats in six matches.
There has been significant institutional change at the ECB in the two years since, with a new chief executive, chair and managing director in place. But realistically, after a seven-year era of unprecedented white-ball success since 2015, the prospect of finishing outside the top eight would not have registered with England’s management.
England play Australia on Saturday before fixtures against Netherlands and Pakistan on November 8 and 11 respectively, and the Netherlands game in Pune already looks like a potential qualification decider. The Dutch have a proud history against England, beating them in the 2009 and 2014 World T20s, and will be desperate to turn them over once more.
“The last thing you want – if the decision gets made to move on from players – is that we haven’t done well enough to give other players the opportunity in future to play in big tournaments. That’s what you play the game for: you want to be in the Champions Trophy and the World Cup, things like that.”
England are not mathematically out of the World Cup, but their players are realistic about their semi-final prospects. “It’s definitely not going to be a situation where we just go through the motions because we’re potentially out of this World Cup,” Malan said. “We have a lot at stake and a lot of pride for England to be in that Champions Trophy in two years’ time.”
Malan told the BBC that, at 36, he is “pretty sure I’ll be done” as an England player before the 2025 Champions Trophy. “It feels a long way away,” he said. “Two years feels a long way away. I am playing as well as I’ve played, but whether that decision is mine or someone else’s, we’ll find out.”
Criticism of England has grown with every defeat and Malan found himself playing down various perceived issues: he denied that central contracts had been a major distraction, said that it was “fair” for Eoin Morgan to lay into their underperformance, and suggested it was up to the players to take the heat off head coach Matthew Mott.
Malan is England’s leading run-scorer at this tournament with 236 at 39.33, 140 of which came in their only win, against Bangladesh in Dharamshala. “I feel like I am playing well, but just finding ways of getting out,” he said. “We just can’t get anything going with the bat and get a score on the board. I can’t put my finger on it.”
He also confirmed recent reports that he will not play in the County Championship for Yorkshire next year. “I’ll probably try and play as much white-ball cricket as I can for the rest of my career,” Malan said. “It’s prioritising spending a bit more time at home because my winters are so busy with internationals or franchise tournaments.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98