Malan is a mainstay in England’s T20 line-up and is their highest-ranked batter in the format, but he injured his left groin while fielding in the side’s last Super 12s group match against Sri Lanka.
He missed the 10-wicket semi-final thrashing of India but passed all fitness tests the day before the marquee match against Pakistan, only for England to err on the side of caution and select Phil Salt.
Malan accepts the reasoning behind the decision made by Jos Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott. The 35-year-old and Mark Wood, also sidelined by injury, were able to console each other ahead of a match England won to become the first men’s side to hold both T20 and ODI World Cups simultaneously.
“We all have tough times in our careers,” he said. “Not being able to play the final was probably one of the toughest days I’ve ever had as a cricketer. That’s what sport’s like – it’s cruel sometimes.
“Understandably the decision was taken not to risk Woody and me, even though we’d done what was needed. I had a few tears that night, you never know how many World Cup finals you’re going to be a part of.
“If you’re just not fit and not able to do what’s required, it’s probably easier to take than to pass a fitness test and still be in a situation where you’re still at risk and you could still let the team down by pulling up the next day in the second over of the game chasing a ball.
“Mark and myself had a two-minute chat. We both were gutted and then said ‘it’s not about us anymore it’s about what the team needed’. It’s in the past. We’ve won the World Cup, that’s all that matters.”
Malan was diagnosed with a grade two tear but less than a fortnight on from suffering the injury, the left-hander was back in action in the first of three ODIs against Australia in Adelaide.
The hosts won by six wickets with relative ease as a mainly second-string England – only skipper Buttler and opening batter Jason Roy were ODI regulars from this line-up – were thoroughly outclassed.
While Australia overhauled England’s 287 for nine with 3.1 overs to spare, thanks to fifties from David Warner, Travis Head and Steve Smith, Malan gave the tourists some cheer with a fine 134 off 128 balls.
He excellently led the recovery from 66 for four and 118 for five to put some competitive spin on this series opener.
Malan is hoping to push his case for next year’s 50-over World Cup in India and the T20 equivalent in 2024, where England will be making the defence of both trophies.
“To be fit and perform like I did, it’s extremely satisfying after the disappointment of last week – disappointment but also the massive excitement and elation of winning that World Cup,” Malan said.
“There’s so much cricket coming up and I’ve got so much to play for still in my career. I still want to push myself into this squad and still want to be at the next T20 World Cup as well.”
While Malan has repeatedly stated in the past he is best suited to the 50-over format, this was just his 10th ODI, with opportunities limited by England’s resurgence in white-ball cricket.
Eoin Morgan’s retirement and that of Ben Stokes in ODIs – even if England hope he might be persuaded to feature at the World Cup – create a couple of vacancies, with Malan determined to seize one of them.
“All I can do is score runs,” Malan added. “This 50-over team that England have had has been so successful for so many years and the guys in their positions have been so successful.
“Anyone waiting in the wings needs to try and take their opportunities when they can.”