Alex Hales quiet on World Cup dropping, targets T20 England comeback
Alex Hales has said he is targeting the T20 World Cup in Australia next year for a potential England comeback, but declined to offer either an apology or an explanation for his actions, after speaking for the first time since his deselection from the World Cup squad for recreational drug use.
Hales was attending the Caribbean Premier League draft in London, where he was picked up by Barbados Tridents for this year's competition. He said that he remained an England fan at heart and would be "watching and cheering" his former team-mates as they seek to live up to their No. 1 ODI status, and win the World Cup for the first time in their history.
But when asked if he had found it difficult to look on from the sidelines while England completed their preparations for the World Cup, a tournament for which he would have been an automatic squad pick, Hales twice declined to comment.
"I'm not here to comment on that, sorry … I'm not here to talk about that," Hales said, before the CPL press officer stepped in to change the line of questioning. He later conceded he "probably won't go" to any World Cup matches, which include England's fixture against Pakistan at his home ground of Trent Bridge on June 3, but added "I'm not really here to talk about that".
Instead, Hales insisted he was looking forward to enjoying some downtime in the coming weeks - as a white-ball specialist, he will not be involved in Nottinghamshire's extensive period of Championship cricket - before throwing himself into action in the T20 Blast, which gets underway with Worcestershire's visit to Trent Bridge on July 18, four days after the final of the World Cup.
Then, if Nottinghamshire fail to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Blast, which take place in the first week of September, Hales will head straight to the Caribbean at the end of August and compete in the remaining month of the CPL - although his stint with Nottinghamshire will still take precedence if they qualify for Finals Day on September 21.
Beyond that, he has been retained for a second year by Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League, and remains hopeful of earning a contract in Australia's Big Bash. "I would love to play in that," he said. "I've not got the ball rolling but, fingers crossed, it's a good tournament.
"I'm just playing white-ball cricket now, so any chance I get to play a pretty high profile with some good players is a good opportunity.
"I just want to get back playing what I love most, and that's cricket," he added. "This is such a good opportunity to go and play at the Kensington Oval, a ground where I've got such good memories, and play in such a big tournament in some different conditions."
His ultimate aim, however, is to get himself back into the England frame - a prospect that Ashley Giles, England's director of cricket, did not rule out when announcing his removal from the England reckoning earlier this month.
However, Hales' initial reaction to his ejection, a strongly worded statement issued through his management company, allied to Eoin Morgan's subsequent statement that he had shown "complete disregard" for the team's values, means that he would appear to have a considerable amount of ground to make up if he is to be back in England's plans in time for the trip to Australia in October next year.
"I hope the door is not closed, that's one of my aims, that T20 World Cup," Hales said. "I'm going to go through the process, hopefully score some runs in these tournaments and see how we go. I want to enjoy my cricket.
"I think it's a good opportunity," he said of his status as a white-ball specialist. "These tournaments now are well respected all around the world, particularly by the selectors and ECB. I'd love to use these tournaments to hopefully get back into the frame for next year."
Addressing his plans for the coming months, Hales added: "I've got a few things to do with the ECB, there's obviously a process to go through, and then start training, I guess. Once I start playing again, the next 12 months will be really busy, so I will enjoy a mixture of some downtime, and then start getting prepared for the Blast by playing some second-team games for Notts."
In spite of his deselection, Hales has retained his ECB contract so still has the gym programme and nutritional support that came with his England employment, and with Trent Bridge just two minutes down the road from his Nottingham home, he will continue to be supported by his county, as had been made clear by the ECB in addressing the implications of his drugs ban.
"I'm blessed to play there," he said. "Peter Moores is a wonderful coach, respected round the world. He keeps in regular touch with me to see how I'm doing, and if I ever want to practice, he's there to chuck balls all day, he loves it.
"I enjoy the responsibility of having my own choice of when to train, and when to go to the gym," he added, insisting that there was no temptation to return to four-day cricket to keep up his on-field appearances.
"I found it difficult going from red-ball to white-ball, so being able to focus on one thing, I find it easier. A lot of county guys go six months all winter without playing, it's something we're used to, but I've got some downtime now and so I'll work on a few things leading into a big 12 months."
Reflecting on the World Cup, which begins with England's clash with South Africa at The Oval on May 30, Hales said he still backed his team-mates to win in his absence.
"I will [be watching]," he said. "I am still a fan and I wish the boys the best. What we've done over the last few years is unbelievable, the guys deserve to win it, and I will be sat there watching and cheering.
"Apart from England, I'd say India [are favourites to win], but the way all teams are playing at the moment, you never know. It's a really open tournament, I'm really looking forward to watching it."
On the subject of England's explosive batting power, Hales said: "It's everyone's natural game, everyone has natural ways to be aggressive. We have got matchwinners all the way down to Adil Rashid at No. 11, It's just hitters and hitters that keep coming at you. If one person doesn't come off, another person will. It's a really good, exciting line-up."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket