Liam Dawson’s all-round brilliance this season should make him a shoo-in for a place in England’s Test XI in India in January, but he admits he is facing “a big decision” if that call comes.
Dawson was the leading English spinner in the County Championship this year, with 49 wickets at exactly 20 (including four five-wicket hauls), allied with 840 runs at exactly 40 (including three hundreds). That all despite having just one wicket and a high score of 24 in his first four matches of the season. Dawson played every match in all formats that he was available for for Hampshire and London Spirit in the Hundred, earning him the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s coveted MVP domestic award.
For Dawson, though, there is a catch. He has a contract in South Africa’s SA20 in January. It is worth around £150,000, which he would have to forgo if called up by England. As a non-contracted player, his remuneration for the India tour would amount to around £100,000 to £120,000, if he played every game.
Dawson turned down a place on March’s white-ball tour of Bangladesh to play in the Pakistan Super League because it paid better, and admits he finds himself with another difficult decision to make.
“I have no idea if I’m in the mix for it [the Test tour],” he said. “I have already signed in South Africa for the SA20 so that is my plan at the minute. If something changes that is a decision I am going to have to think about.
“To be honest, probably no [it will not be a straightforward decision]. I am 33 now. I am very realistic that I am not always going to play for England.
“The game is changing massively and everybody that is involved in the game understands that. Financially it is something at my age that I will have to consider, that will be a big decision.”
Dawson has long been a nearly man for England despite a World Cup winner’s medal having been part of the squad in 2019. A seven-year international career has brought him just three Tests, the last of them more than six years ago, and 17 white-ball internationals. He is a regular reserve: he was Jack Leach’s reserve for last year’s Test tour of Pakistan, an official travelling reserve for the T20 World Cup triumph in Australia, and is on standby for this World Cup, should an England spinner go down with injury.
Dawson’s form in domestic cricket this season has thrust him back into the Test conversation this year, though. He was unfortunate to miss out to Moeen Ali when Leach went down injured this summer. His barnstorming performances for Hampshire since mean that with Moeen now re-retired, slow left-armers Dawson and Leach could play together against a right-hander-heavy India line-up on what are likely to be spicy pitches. Youngsters Will Jacks and Rehan Ahmed look likely to tour, too.
Dawson says being “at peace” with his peripheral role for England has improved his performances at domestic level.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “When you’re younger, everyone understands that you’re so desperate to play for England, you’re so desperate to play higher that… adding that pressure probably isn’t a good thing and that’s something that I’ve dealt with over the last few years. I’m older now, I’ve played a lot more cricket and I just want to enjoy my cricket. I don’t want to worry about playing for England, I want to enjoy playing cricket and that’s the reason that you play the game.
“I don’t think about playing for England at all now. I think that does help and that’s how I’ll continue to play my cricket.”