Alex Hales looks set to remain frozen out of England’s one-day setup for some time yet after the captain, Eoin Morgan, scotched talk of an imminent comeback and reiterated the depth of his disappointment at the Nottinghamshire player’s recreational drug ban last year.
A training squad of up to 45 England players is expected to be named on Friday and with a packed summer schedule also due to be unveiled – one that is unlikely to permit movement between formats with the biosecure measures in place – the in-form Hales might have re-entered the mix.
However, despite some recent contact with the Nottinghamshire opener he opted to drop on the eve of the World Cup last year – and the senior player Chris Woakes stating last week that the dressing room would likely accept Hales once more – Morgan appears unready to sanction a recall at present.
“I think Alex is in a unique position, one that no one has found themselves in before,” said Morgan, speaking at an online event to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of cricket charity Chance to Shine. “On the cusp of a World Cup the huge breakdown in trust between him and the players was extremely dramatic.
“I’ve certainly spoken to Alex and see an avenue for him to come back. But, like in life and any sport, when there’s a breakdown of trust the only healer in that is time. It’s only been 13 months since the incident. Given that it could have derailed a World Cup campaign, I think it will take more time, yes.
“It’s not about performance with Alex, he’s a fantastic player and it’s never been discussed as to whether he’s good enough to be in the squad. It’s about on and off the field and values we adhere to. Alex showed complete disregard for them and I think he needs to build that up for as long as he can and, hopefully, an opportunity will present itself along the line.”
After a proposed three-match ODI series versus Ireland in late July and three Twenty20s against Pakistan a month later, the schedule for England’s white-ball team looks uncertain. On Wednesday the International Cricket Council moved to play down reports of the T20 World Cup in Australia in October being postponed but such talk remains rife and Morgan would be “surprised” if it went ahead.
The 33-year-old had been targeting that tournament, and the following edition in India in 2021, and remains hopeful he will lead England for both. Energised by the current break and feeling ready to pick up a bat once more, he even hinted at being around for the next 50-over World Cup in 2023, even if this will hinge on his value as a batsman and a longstanding back injury he manages.
England are expected to prioritise the intended Test series against West Indies and Pakistan this summer selection-wise, something which could present opportunities for younger white-ball players such as the Somerset opener Tom Banton or Phil Salt of Sussex, another power player at the top of the order.
But Morgan said he will continue to ask members of the setup for their thoughts on Hales returning one day, given his obvious pedigree as a cricketer. “I think teams in the past wouldn’t have been strong enough to make decisions like we did pre-World Cup and then continue to stand by them post-World Cup.
“And I think that says a lot about the group. They feel as if they’re completely a part of something that they can take ownership of, because they’ve seen the work that they’ve put in and they’ve seen results. [And] they also have seen instances where a player coming back into a group has the ability to take a lot of energy away and have impact on a lot of other players.”