Dawid Malan’s retirement highlights the huge hole left by Gary Ballance departure - Chris Waters
Whereas Brook was always the coming man of English cricket, a player destined for a similar career path to Joe Root, perhaps, and Malan a guarantee of runs if only available infrequently, Ballance was the glue of the top-order batting, the one who held things together behind opener Adam Lyth.
When Ballance left Yorkshire last December, his career wrecked by the racism scandal that brought down the club, it deprived Yorkshire of someone who could have served them still for the next three-to-five years.
At 33 (just under two years younger than Lyth, who scored 1,000 runs last season), Ballance had plenty to offer in all formats, especially in first-class and List A cricket, averaging 47 in both with a combined tally of 50 hundreds.
His international days were over, leaving him a clear run at county cricket; an extraordinary start to his Test career had seen Ballance become the third-fastest England player to 1,000 runs before matters tailed away and the flame fizzled out, amid criticism of his technique and anxiety issues.
Despite it all, Ballance still averaged 40 in Test cricket, the accepted benchmark for a quality player. To put that into perspective, of the men who took part in England’s last Test, against Australia at the Oval in late July, only Brook, Root and Ben Duckett have a superior Test average, with Ballance’s eclipsing even those of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.
All water under the bridge now, of course, with Ballance going on to retire from all professional cricket last April, his love for the sport shattered by events, but not so at Headingley, where Malan’s confirmation on Tuesday of his first-class retirement refocuses attention on the top-order batting.
Yorkshire have not been blind to the situation by any stretch, having known which way the wind was blowing and that Malan, 36, would likely follow Adil Rashid down the white-ball only route, available only in the T20 Blast, with The Hundred clashing with the domestic 50-over competition.
But Yorkshire’s recent attempts to strengthen fell on deaf ears, with players unwilling to commit due to the uncertainty caused by the racism scandal and the likelihood of a points penalty subsequently imposed by the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC), one which kept Yorkshire marooned in the lower reaches of the County Championship Second Division.
As Darren Gough, the Yorkshire managing director of cricket, told this newspaper last month: “We were talking to three domestic batsmen. Any two of those three would have been perfect, but we couldn’t get the targets we wanted. We were waiting for the CDC result and the outcome of that.”
No doubt that situation will improve going forward, with Gough revealing that he will wait, most likely until February, before deciding whether to sign a second overseas batsman to complement Shan Masood, the captain who is returning for a second season. It is bowlers’ fitness that will determine the next step; such have been Yorkshire’s injury problems in that area, they do not want to leave themselves short in that department.
That Yorkshire are in Division Two perhaps makes the batting predicament less troublesome than it might otherwise be; indeed, one would still expect them to have a good crack at promotion with their existing squad. Certainly there is a chance for the likes of James Wharton, Will Luxton, and so on to keep pressing.
Like Ballance, who played 24 Tests, Malan, who played 22, left the five-day arena an unfulfilled talent.
His Test average (27.53) does not do him justice, his solitary hundred coming against Australia at Perth in 2017.
Malan’s white-ball record speaks for itself; he averages 55 in one-day internationals and 36 in T20 internationals, and he was once the leading T20 batsman in the world. He is under-rated, perhaps, even to this day.
Another retirement now announced is that of David Willey, the former Yorkshire all-rounder who is calling time on his England career after the World Cup.
The timing of the announcement - with three matches left in England’s disastrous campaign - would appear to betray Willey’s dissatisfaction at being the only member of the squad not given a new central contract; he has lately been in fine, nose-rubbing-in-it form.
Willey, 33, has played more than 100 white-ball games for England and taken close on 150 wickets; he has given sterling service, and he was desperately unlucky not to play in the 2019 World Cup due to the fast-tracking of Jofra Archer.
Willey was in tears watching that final.
For football’s Jimmy Greaves, read cricket’s David Willey.