'Karma didn't treat me very well' - Hales
Alex Hales has paid credit to the England management and selectors after his comeback century in Barbados. He was named Man of the Match in the final ODI of a series England won 3-0 after being a peripheral figure since the end of the English season.
Having been dropped from the Test side, he then opted out of the limited-overs series in Bangladesh due to security fears and was reduced to a cameo appearance in India due to injury. With Sam Billings making two half-centuries in four innings as his replacement at the top of the order, it was possible that Hales might have had to wait for a return.
But while Hales admits his decision to miss the Bangladesh tour was "a risk," he has been gratified by the management's belief in him and their decision to draft him back into the side as soon as he his hand had recovered. Hales was not originally deemed fit for selection for the one-day series in the Caribbean, but completed his rehab with the tour party in Antigua and was officially added to the squad a couple of days before the final game in Barbados despite not having played a warm-up match.
"It was encouraging that they stuck with me," Hales said. "It was obviously my choice not to tour Bangladesh and it gave the opportunity for other people to come in and do well. That was a risk I knew I was taking and the injury then came at a bad time for me.
"I missed the boat in India. I ran myself out in the first ODI in India and then batted with a broken hand in the second one. Karma didn't treat me very well. It's been a tough winter.
"But the team have backed me and stuck with me and hopefully I've repaid their faith."
It was his maturity that impressed most in Barbados. Put in on a tricky surface, England managed only 39 from the first 10 overs but then accelerated as conditions eased and the spinners were called upon. Perhaps reassured by the belief shown in him by the team management, Hales demonstrated the confidence to bat through the demanding period and score what he termed "ugly runs" before conditions eased and the runs started to flow.
"It took a while to settle," he said. "Me and Joe Root knew it would be tough against the seamers but we took our time and there were some ugly runs amongst it. We had a plan to be ultra-aggressive against the spinners and that plan worked for us. We wanted to put them under pressure. Then, the longer we got ourselves in, the easier the seamers became."
It was noticeable, too, that Hales allowed himself a sustained celebration upon reaching his century.
"When you spend time away from international cricket it makes you realise what you're missing out on," he explained. "I tried to use the time off wisely, working on my fitness and batting with a small cast on my hand.
"It's a huge honour to represent England and when you have time away from that it makes you cherish what you've got. Playing for your country, playing in front of all these people… it's special. I was emotional, yes. It was a combination of everything and to come here and score a hundred having not played a lot of cricket throughout the winter is an incredibly special feeling."
He has not given up on Test cricket either. While he accepts that his chance has gone as an opening batsman - he has averaged 27.28 in his Test career to date - he believes a recall to a middle-order position, a role he says has he has always favoured, remains a possibility.
"The plan next summer is to try and score as many runs as I can in the middle order," he said. "Obviously depending on how many games I play for Notts that may be hindered a bit. But I've got something set out for the next six months and that's a good plan for me.
"The middle order is somewhere I've always eyed up. But in my younger days at Notts, when you've got Mark Wagh, Stephen Fleming, David Hussey and Samit Patel there, it's quite tough to get into that middle order. So I had to open to get into that Notts team and it became the same with the England team. They had Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen; the opening spot was again the place to target.
"So throughout my career I've had to bat at the top of the order to make the step up, but now I've had that taste and not done as well as I would have liked to it gives me something else to focus on. I'm going to give it everything this summer and see what happens.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. He will be covering England's tour of the Caribbean in association with Smile Group Travel, specialists in hosted supporters' packages.