Eoin Morgan has dealt a potentially fatal blow to Alex Hales' hopes of an England recall, after making it clear he has not yet been forgiven for putting last summer's World Cup campaign at risk with the timing of his drugs ban.
Hales, 31, was jettisoned from England's plans on the eve of the World Cup in May last year, after The Guardian revealed that he had failed two tests for recreational drugs, the second of which had triggered a 21-day ban.
And despite a recent interview in which Hales insisted he had matured as a character, as well as last week's endorsement from Chris Woakes, who said the team would welcome him back if he had learnt his lessons, the England captain's latest pronouncement on the subject could sound the death knell for any lingering comeback hopes.
Speaking ahead of a Chance to Shine event, Morgan reiterated the "huge breakdown in trust" that had led to the squad's decision to jettison a player who had contributed six centuries and more than 2000 runs to England's rise from ignominy at the 2015 World Cup to pre-tournament favourites in 2019.
Furthermore, he warned that it could be "detrimental" to re-introduce Hales to the national set-up, in spite of his impressive recent performances, which include a haul of 815 runs at 42.89 for Sydney Thunder and Karachi Kings in this winter's BBL and PSL, more runs on the T20 circuit than any other batsman.
"Alex is in a unique position, probably a position that nobody else has found themselves in before," said Morgan. "On the cusp of a World Cup, the huge breakdown in trust between him and the players was extremely dramatic, given the circumstances surrounding the four years [between World Cups] and the build-up, and the way that things unfolded.
"It's obviously not about performance with Alex," Morgan added. "Alex is a fantastic player. That's never been discussed whether he's good enough to be in the squad or not.
"Playing cricket for England is about on- and off-the-field values that we adhere to, or do our best to adhere to, and Alex showed complete disregard for them.
"If he can build them up that for as long as he can, then hopefully an opportunity will present itself down the line. But I think, given that it could have derailed a World Cup campaign, it might take some more time, yes."
England are due in the coming days to name an extended training squad as they prepare to get back to action following the Covid-19 outbreak. And the extraordinary circumstances - in particular, the likely need for concurrent red- and white-ball squads - seemed to have raised Hales' hopes of a recall, particularly after Morgan, in a previous interview, had hinted that the "door was still open".
"I've certainly spoken to Alex, and certainly see an avenue for him to coming back to playing cricket," Morgan said. "But like in life and in any sport, I think when there's a breakdown of trust, the only healer in that is time.
"And it's only been 12-13 months since the incident, which could have cost us four years of hard work. Time is a great healer. So we will continue to assess things moving forward, as we've spoken to Alex about."
"When we speak about trust, trust is a complete feeling," Morgan added. "And it's demonstrated by things that you said you're going to do, and you follow through with that.
"And for each and every player in our group, that timeline will be different, but we will continue to ask every player good honest questions, how they feel about the situation and will it be detrimental having Alex back into the squad, and what that will look like moving forward."
Though Morgan has intimated in recent interviews that he will assess his position at the end of the second of two back-to-back T20 World Cups, in India in 2021-22, he insisted that his ambition was undimmed by the recent down-time, and arguably enhanced after undergoing a "complete mental refresh" during lockdown.
And while Hales' realistic hopes of an England recall may hinge on his captain calling it a day, it is also clear that Morgan - who espoused the values of "courage", "respect" and "unity" in the build-up to the World Cup - has one eye on the team's legacy, not least their defence of the World Cup in 2023, and strongly doubts whether Hales has any place in their long-term plans.
"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," he said. "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 that, because they've seen the work that they've put in and they've seen results. So, they also have seen instances where players coming back into groups has the ability to take a lot of energy away, and have an impact on a lot of other players."
Morgan was speaking ahead of an online event to celebrate 15 years of the Chance to Shine charity, which has given over five million children the opportunity to play, learn and develop through cricket. Donations to Chance to Shine are being matched by patron Adrian Beecroft this summer, and can be made here.